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Orthodoxy: Liberty's Other Enemy

I am typing this in Miami, where I have had the privilege of sharing ideas of liberty with some new Americans who know more of its antithesis than almost anyone on this Continent -- Cuban exiles of Castro's regime. One of them, Normando, has spent seven years in prison for the crime of criticizing the quality of government-manufactured Cuban bread.

A conversation with Normando over breakfast on the day of my second lecture caused me to throw out the lecture I was going to give and replace it with one entitled, "Why Changing Minds (and Hearts) Is Difficult," which is full of empirical psychology, epistemology and neurology. It attempts to explain why it is hard not only to interpret reality accurately but even to see reality when it conflicts with what we already "know" -- regardless of whether our knowledge is right or wrong. (Its opening quote is from Goethe: "We see only what we know".) I am referring not so much to the changing of others' minds as to the changing of our own.

At the end of my lecture, I asked my audience who among them had read 1984. Some of them had -- although more of them had lived it than had read it.

I suggested that the book is, from its opening page, set in a near-complete tyranny. In the political sense, the world of 1984 is as hopeless as any dystopia that has been imagined in literature. You read it without much sense of hope for anything. Isn't it strange, then, that there would be any palpable sinking of the heart when you get to the end, when Winston, taken to Room 101 is finally broken by the destruction of his ability to believe for himself; to think for himself, even to perceive for himself? Why does your heart sink? Because at that point, all hope truly is lost. The ability to see his world as it is has gone, and with it, the possibility that he could ever experience his true self.

Before that -- throughout nearly the whole book -- Winston was a victim of tyranny -- but not, apparently, without all of his freedoms: he retained what might be called the final freedom, or (better, perhaps?) the first freedom: the one that resides inside -- the freedom to think. The freedom that makes him human. For lovers of political freedom, this mental freedom is the most precious of all because it is the one that an individual must ultimately call upon in pursuit (or recovery) of all other freedoms.

Normando was in the audience as I asserted all of that in my lecture, nodding in agreement.

Of what did Winston become a victim of in Room 101, of which he had not been a victim throughout the rest of the book? The answer is not tyranny, as he was already a victim of tyranny on page 1. Rather, he became a victim of orthodoxy -- tyranny of the mind.

There are many orthodoxies -- religious, political, philosophical and more. Like all other tyrannies, they seek conformity. Orthodoxy is to the mind as tyranny is to the person.

I am relatively new to the American liberty movement, but no one can say that I haven't done my fair share in support of it. Yet, I have never called myself a libertarian, which still, as a label, makes me uncomfortable.

Some who adopt it -- a minority but enough to matter -- seem to be invested in one or other "orthodoxies of liberty" -- a series of positions that they are convinced are the only reasonable outcomes or implications of the broader principles of liberty they espouse. Here are a few that I have come across -- and I have been personally castigated by a few libertarians for not agreeing with some of them.

A life is fully human at conception. A life has no moral value until it can exist outside the womb. Churchill was a warmonger. Lincoln hated liberty. There can be no recovery of American liberty through the Republican party. The only possible recovery of American liberty is through the Republican party. The ends never justify the means. Rand Paul is not one of us. (This one arises from what I call the method-as-intention fallacy: that a difference in methods implies a difference in fundamental principles or goals.) Ron Paul's views are the gold standard for liberty. The knowledge/experience/ideas of those who do not share our views about liberty should be discounted a priori. Marriage is between a man and a woman, by definition. Marriage is between any people who want to get married. A Constitutional Republic is not a tyranny but a Constitutional Monarchy must be. Taxation is the exact equivalent of theft. Ayn Rand is a panacea. And worst of all, two people who really understand liberty could never disagree about any of these.

There are plenty more.

You'll notice that some of the above contradict each other -- which rather goes to the point.

The price paid for a libertarian orthodoxy of any flavor is the success of the very principles for which all of us in the liberty movement claim to stand. Orthodoxy reflects a tacit assumption that one's own understanding of principles is as sacred as the principles, themselves. And it divides our house against itself.

Orthodoxy is not consensus. A single person can exhibit an orthodoxy. It is a state of mind: it is the idea that there is only one right set of views that liberty can support, when, in fact, the idea that there is only one right set of views is at odds with the notion of liberty, itself.

Until we win, liberty activists are political deviants. If I may be thoroughly unorthodox for one sentence, and quote Anton La Vey, "There is less room for deviance in deviance, than in any other human endeavor." Having been highly active in the movement for two years, my greatest hope is that this never becomes true of us. (We are already displaying the signs.)

If there is one group of people who are not entitled to make an orthodoxy out of their views, it is we who claim to fight for liberty. Why? Because "orthodoxy of liberty" is a contradiction in terms. The belief in freedom, including freedom of thought, should prevent us from judging others who are exercising that very freedom to think about freedom, itself.

Orthodox libertarianism may be less dangerous than other orthodoxies, such as religious orthodoxies, just because it has much less power and reach, but it is fundamentally much worse since, unlike the latter two, it is self-contradictory and so makes liars out of its practitioners.

I love being a part of the American liberty movement. Never have I had so much meaning in my life, nor had so much to play for. But as someone who still remembers what it feels like to be politically situated elsewhere, may I suggest that when self-identified libertarians put others down for understanding their freedom in a way of which they do not approve, those others feel nothing of the expansiveness and the glory of the human spirit that the very idea of liberty, shared with Love, invariably brings.

Are you pro-choice? Great. Are you pro-life? Great. Are you pro-GOP? Great. Are you pro-Libertarian Party? Great. Are you pro-Churchill? Great. Are you anti-Churchill? Great. Given our imperfection, the incompleteness of our knowledge, and our diverse life experiences, you can be any one of those things and believe in them precisely because you love liberty - even though they are contradictory. It is only when you set yourself apart from another because he or she disagrees with you on one of your litmus tests for liberty that you elevate that issue above the principle of liberty, itself.

I had been thinking about writing this article for months, but I couldn't crystallize it until my breakfast with Normando.

Through his wife, who speaks a few words of English, Normando told me that he was freer in prison than he had ever been before he was locked up. To check that I had understood his meaning, I pointed to my head and asked, "Free in here?".

"Si", he said, with a smile.

The death of liberty is not tyranny. It is orthodoxy.

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I think there can be consensus.

And consensus may be another word for orthodoxy.

Also, a question about the statement "Orthodoxy is an enemy of liberty." Is that orthodox?

Monopoly is the true enemy of liberty

You seem to suggest that orthodoxy of something inevitably implies monopoly on the horizons of interpretations possible on that particular something. That is a stretch. Orthodoxy usually means just the established way of understanding or doing something [that can degenerate into a monopoly, I grant you, but not necessarily]. Not that the common way of doing things is right, just that you have to acknowledge and start with it to be able to change it. Without understanding what the orthodoxy or tradition on something is how could you even begin to think and rebel against it?

Orthodoxy makes discourse and communication possible. Every word has its orthodoxy of meanings and connotations. You wouldn't be able to make yourself understood to your readers without starting from a common, established way of writing, reading and interpreting your text. You wouldn't even be able to think without established meanings of words. In order to be able to challenge the orthodoxy of some concept for example you have to rely in your affirmations on the orthodoxy of other concepts. Orthodoxy is the foundation on which liberty from some orthodoxies is possible.

One should fight any monopolistic orthodoxy for freedom and liberty but that fight can only be possible by using as weapons [of thinking] non-monopolistic orthodoxies [words]. Monopoly is the true enemy of liberty, orthodoxy is the ground on which both monopoly and liberty are possible.

I like the post.

Its rare that I read a post that gives me pause and causes me to think outside MY box. I can't say that reading the article is likely to change any of my fundamential views, but I LIKE IT when I read something that unexpectedly causes me to see things outside my default point of view.

So do I...

I was about to comment the same thoughts - thanks for saving my typing them !!

Sounds like Ron Paul

Sounds like a speech Ron Paul made on 19 May 2009

Some Opinions

Let's not lose sight of the fact that some opinions are more valuable than others. To treat everyone's opinion equally is a fallacy. As a crude example, I would put far more value in the opinion of a heart specialist of 2013 than that of a barber of the 15th century when it came to my health. Likewise, some people are closer to the "Truth" than others in other areas. This is why logic, debate, and critical thinking are necessary tools of any Libertarian.

Orthodoxy, if it includes "believing something before applying reason" then yeah, that's not helpful to Liberty. But that doesn't mean that anyone's opinion is as valid as anyone else's.

Maximizing liberty is good

I still do not understand why DP owner cringes from Gary Johnson and Rand Paul. Funny, that "purity" is demanded by our anarchists who themselves logically failed to explain how anarchism can provide basic security without uniform laws. If private property is not protected, no talk about individual liberty is possible. Even more funny, some our populists use friendship with Israel or flouride as a litmus test for a true Libertarian.

On the other hand, reason dictates us that ideology cannot be diluted too much. As Ayn Rand said - half water and half poison is poison; half reason and half unreason is evil. Acceptence of capitalism and separation of government from economy should be basic pre-requisit. Ideally, I would rather see us agreeing that sacrificing an individual to an abstract entity (god, universal neighbor, community, society, etc.) is wrong.

Accd to the FBI stats, over

Accd to the FBI stats, over 1.2 million violent crimes were committed in the US in 2011, the last full year for which the data is reported.

Suggesting that the state is necessary in order to provide basic security kinda flies in the face of the facts, don't it?

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein

Crimes are on the rise

because today's government policies do not protect private property - in fact, they undermine it (majority of Americans today do not support individualism, capitalism and unregulated private property.) Under capitalism, it is not perfect but better than under anarchism. Consider this:

A fraudulent company had defrauded a customer (say, Mr. Smith) and left the state without a trace. After 6 months, an insurance company that covers detective work (Mr. Smith holds policy at) informs Mr. Smith that detectives had spent the upper limit of the insurance policy with no success. Mr. Smith has no money to hire private investigators to check if his insurance company or the detectives actually did their job or just pocketed money. In any case, he has no hope that the same wont happen again and again.

Now substitute the fraudulent company with a gangesters who kidnapped your daughter to harvest her kidneys for black market.

While I agree with your

While I agree with your conclusion (tolerance for viewpoints other than your own) I don't buy how you got there.

You seem to be suggesting that "truth" is a construction of the mind, and that different minds can conclude that differing facts are true. This is an incorrect view of reality.

There IS such a thing as truth, and it exists OUTSIDE of the mind. It CANNOT be true both that Churchill was a warmonger and that he was not (assuming that there is agreement on the definition of "warmonger"). If "truth" is a construct of the mind, and two individuals can reach different conclusions on what is fact and BOTH be correct, why even bother to find the truth?

I reach your conclusion in a very different way. While I know that truth exists I try to approach life from the Zen framework of "beginner's mind". While I know certain facts to be true, I always hold open the possibility that I may be wrong - that in the next moment, the facts that I have known as true may be shattered. The working mind - the truth seeking mind - is always considering new opinions, facts, theories and testing them against reality, adjusting what it knows based on new information.

This is why it's important to consider the viewpoints of others with whom you disagree, and why one should be tolerant of those whom one knows are wrong about the truth. We acquire knowledge (and dispel ignorance) throughout our lives. We've ALL been wrong plenty of times. Hating someone who you know is wrong is childish. Until - that is - you are convinced that they actually know the truth and are lying about it for personal gain.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein

Robin Koerner's picture

I believe in Truth

... And I completely agree with you - and am grateful for your clarification.

This is an article about epistemology (whether and how we know Truth) - not metaphysics (whether there is Truth and what it is)

I am not a relativist. I merely observe that I have never met someone who has access to complete Truth - even a libertarian!

That fact plus experience of people with whom I broadly agree who talk as if they have the Truth or complete certainty that they have it more clearly than anyone else motivated this article.

I studied philosophy (Master's) - but even before that, was comfortable with the proposition that X and NOT X are not simultaneously TRUE!

Again. The observation that no person has access to Truth DOES NOT IMPLY that there is no Truth.


I would suggest that pride is the enemy of truth and conscience.

I think the biggest obstruction to people finding truth, and the most destructive force to the human race in general, is the "spirit" or "feeling" of pride.I think greed,jealously,hatred,selfishness,dishonesty,injustice and corruption can all be attributed to the spirit of pride.It is pride that makes people reluctant to admit it when they are wrong and basically avoid the truth and their own conscience when it does not fit their chosen"belief system" or "self interest".It is the spirit of pride that makes people do insane things to follow their beloved "group" or "love of themselves".Their "group" may be one that is based on race,religious denomination,nationality, political party or some other chosen "belief system".For example,two elections ago I was planning on voting for Guiliani in the primary until I heard the infamous exchange at the debate between Guiliani and Ron Paul.When Ron Paul suggested we treat other countries as we would like them to treat us it rang true to my conscience.Here was an example where I felt my conscience overcome my feeling of pride and I admitted to myself that I had made a wrong decision and was supporting the wrong person.I supported Ron ever since.But when I look back on my life I can see many wrong things I have done where my pride prevented me from following my conscience.Pride is especially dangerous because most people are not even aware that the spirit of pride exists!Once I became aware of my own pride it made it so much easier to understand why I, as well as others, act,say,think and feel the way we do about so many things.. If this makes sense to you,you might appreciate the video linked at the bottom of this post.

Thank you from a Theist.

Thank you from a Theist.


Thank you.

Sharing with my Miami friends. I grew up there. Did I mention my life would suck without the Dailypaul? ha!


he believes in the orthodoxy of no orthodoxy.

Thank you for this excellent piece

The local Tea Party (on of the few not co-opted in the state) in my area had a panel discussion "Herding Cats" where the panelists were asked very leading questions, the obvious goal of which was to put aside our policy differences and get behind, well, whatever those driving the process wanted us to get behind.

Here was one of the leading questions" Could we say that saving this Republic is bigger than any of our individual differences?

And here was my (I was a panelist) answer:

- No, I think that's getting it backwards. Freedom is expressed in the form of individual differences. The Republic is should not be viewed as the end, but the means. It is a tool whose function, whose justification for its very being, is to protect -among other things- our right to be different, to hold different views and to express them, especially in the form of dissent from the group norm. If we have to give up that to save a government, then its time to abandon that government and work for one that we don't have to give up our freedom to sustain.

Localism is for people who can still sleep at night even though somebody they don't know in a city they have never been is doing things differently. ("Localism, A Philosophy of Government" on Amazon for Kindle or Barnes and Noble ebook websites)

I think this also applies

to what you are saying here.... they also asked the panel "From your experience, can you share one generalized example of an obstacle that would interfere with effective cooperation among us?"

And I answered:
– the suppression of rational debate turns off thoughtful liberty-minded people. There is a forum called FreeRepublic which was huge and growing, until the owner decided to put outward unity over continuing rational dialog. It is still around, but it is an empty shell of what it once was. If you think about it, all progress originally begins as dissent, as someone challenging the prevailing view of their group. He shut that down and now it is just an echo chamber with no intellectual challenge or growth, and even the true believers got bored with it and started drifting off.

Localism is for people who can still sleep at night even though somebody they don't know in a city they have never been is doing things differently. ("Localism, A Philosophy of Government" on Amazon for Kindle or Barnes and Noble ebook websites)

And of course I have to add

that the philosophy of government called "Localism" helps solve the argument over what the rules should be, because in that philosophy every locality can tailor the answer where they think it should be. We don't have to have the same answers, we only have to agree that power should be de-centralized. That is the main point, but certain steps have to be taken to make sure that it stays that way.

Ebook for Amazon Kindle:

On Barnes and Noble for other E-readers:

Localism is for people who can still sleep at night even though somebody they don't know in a city they have never been is doing things differently. ("Localism, A Philosophy of Government" on Amazon for Kindle or Barnes and Noble ebook websites)

It's this intolerance in the liberty movement that is divisive

We need to find our common ground and work toward making those changes. We ARE a minority unfortunately. We do strive daily to reach people, to wake them, to stir the dormant liberty beast inside them. But it is human nature to cling to your adopted (or programed) dogma.

What Robin says is dead on. A typical person reasons that if the new information contradicts what he already knows then it must be a lie or it must be wrong so they promptly dismiss it. Plant the seed anyway. Eventually it may grow and bear fruit. Ultimately, I guess, we are just patriot versions of Johny Appleseed.

If we work together yet pursue various avenues toward freedom and if we are inclusive rather than exclusive then we will grow our numbers and begin to see the beginnings of liberty being valued and restored. Ron Paul was all inclusive and never tore anyone down by their ideals. He instead focused on bringing people to liberty through spreading ideas. He IS a shining example and a "Gold Standard" if you will. It's about progress not perfection. You have to make progress first before you can get anywhere near any sort of perfection.

Orthodoxy all the Way

This is why I'm a paleo (Old) conservative rather than a libertarian.

"The Yankee is compelled to toil to make the world go around."
-Admiral Raphael Semmes, CSN

Bravo, Robin !

“Talking to her, he realized how easy it was to present an appearance of orthodoxy while having no grasp whatever of what orthodoxy meant. In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to escape the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.”

 —  George Orwell, 1984

Reigning In Terror And Timidity

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

-- Milan Kundera

Collaboration and Culpability

In 'Testaments Betrayed', Kundera notes that many people “change their mind in accordance with the invisible tribunal that is also changing its mind; their change is thus simply a bet on what the tribunal will proclaim to be the truth tomorrow. I remember my youth in Czechoslovakia. Having emerged from our initial enchantment with Communism, we felt each small step against official doctrine to be a courageous act. We protested the persecution of religious believers, stood up for banned modern art, argued against the stupidity of propaganda, criticized the country's dependence on Russia, and so on. In doing so, we were taking some risk – not much, but still some – and that (little) danger gave us a pleasant moral satisfaction. One day a hideous thought came to me: what if our rebellions were dictated not by internal freedom, by courage, but by the desire to please the other tribunal that was already preparing, in the shadows, to sit in judgment?”

Dancers vs Tripping The Light Fantastic

And so long to devotion
You taught me everything I know
Wave goodbye
Wish me well..
You've gotta let me go

Right to the point in the Rocky mtns.

Just attended a colorado county gop meeting where I saw this orthodoxy in action in a big way.
"The world view of the Party imposing itself on those incapable of understanding it" describes what happened perfectly as well as "not grasping what was demanded of them and not interested in public events to notice what was happening." It was an exercise in insanity as they re-elected the same old party leaders and you could sniff the rancid air of self-satisfaction and comatose comfort in the room. Back they went home to their comfortable chairs and stale habits.
Thanks for posting these quotes.

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it."

~~~ Thomas Jefferson

Your point that...

...orthodoxies can be dangerous is well-taken. History is replete with examples of this. I guess the only caution I have is that, as Sonmi-451 in 'Cloud Atlas' said: 'Truth is singular. Its versions are mistruths.' Distrust of those who say they have the truth should not lead to abandonment of the idea that there is an actual Truth.

Yes, let recognition of unalienable rights of Life and Liberty be the vehicle we all uphold, as a way to function in society -- however, not as an end in itself, but as a means to freely discuss, debate and discover what is this Truth, and to try to persuade others of it without fear of being muzzled or persecuted.

I care little whether someone is offended by the Truth, whether they call it an orthodoxy or a heresy. I do care if someone is oppressed in the name of Truth, through authoritarian actions. The key is Love, which in turn lends support to Liberty: "...speaking the truth in love..." (Eph. 4:15) I believe a society that does not have true Love in their hearts toward another -- including their enemies -- will not have true Liberty for long.

Robin Koerner's picture

Thank you. I agree whole-heartedly

.... and would not that one of my violations of orthodoxy (I'm stretching its use here!) was the use of the word "Love" in a political article.

We would all do well to speak of it more often... and for me, as a source of expansiveness and liberty, it opposes "orthodoxy" as a source of contraction and conformity. Thanks for the comment.

Your phrase...

...'Liberty, shared with Love' really resonated with me. Triggered an echo of it, I guess. :) You've also inspired me to actually go read '1984' rather than relying on the rough synopsis I have of it in my head, from secondary sources. Thanks for sharing your insights.

I don't see logical consistency here

So I claim to be a libertarian, but much like Tom Woods, am a practicing orthodox Catholic. So, my understanding of a fetus is that it is an individual and just as I'm pro-laws against murder of a 30 year old, I'm pro-laws against allowing for abortion and think people that support abortion are wrong.

That said I don't think they are stupid, and since they think a fetus is not an individual they logically think it an invasion of ones personal rights to put limits on abortion. Thus they disagree rightly disagree with pro-lifers based on their perception of reality.

Neither side says "Great" to the other as you suggest they might, nor should they. Some degree of complete moral ambivalence or relativism would be required for either side to accept the others position. I guess those taking a sort of agnostic position that "we can't know if they are individuals" might be okay with either side but not those with an inclination to one side or the other.

And this only seems the most wrong of the points made here. If I encounter a libertarian who thinks war is great, that martial law is good, that the bill of right is bad or anything else - yeah, I'd set myself apart from their group or affiliation.

Orthodoxy isn't an opposite of liberty, but perhaps it is an opposite of relativism.

Funny Isn't It?

They spout about finding ways to debate instead of divide then vote you down lickety split! hahah



I agree completely with you, smber2c. The problem with the Libertarian left (though their are many "orthodox" libertarian right) is that they may espouse virtue, but they have none. You need to have some sort of definition of right and wrong in order to further anything-absolutes are needed. G.K. Chesterton said it best, "Tolerance is the virtue of the man who has none." Since many left-leaning libertarians state that they must remain "indifferent" on cases such as abortion, they give up any high ground they had. Why should anyone believe them right when absolutes are never taught or attained outside of the manipulative word "liberty"?
Check out the Constitution Party, which is more of an "Old" (paleo) conservative groups than the "New" (neo) con Republican Party.

"The Yankee is compelled to toil to make the world go around."
-Admiral Raphael Semmes, CSN


I'll take your tip on looking into the paleo-conservatives just off your quoting G.K. Chesterton. I was introduced into C.S. Lewis in college and devoured his writings. Great Divorce, Screwtape Letters, & even Mere Christianity (I favor the narrative of the other two more) are among my favorite books. Lewis introduced me to Chesterton and I've gotten 2 of his books - which I've greatly enjoyed to the degree I've read them....but I've got a starting books/not finishing problem. On last count I've got 23 books on my shelf with bookmarks in the middle - I'll have to get back to Chesterton soon.

I think you just proved Robin's point..

I am an orthodox Catholic so:

My "understanding" of a fetus is that....

"Understand" - 'To perceive and comprehend the nature and significance of; grasp'

Understanding implies you have explored "under" what is "standing" of the defined term or issue. If it is based on any orthodoxy whatsoever then you lack understanding. If you have sufficiently explored the nature of an issue, and your view happens to align with some kind of orthodoxy, then so be it. If you have a bias because of orthodoxy which perverts your subjective interpretation, then understanding is clearly missing. Keep in mind that orthodoxy is a relative term.

I AM is all that is. Everything else is malleable.

Robin Koerner's picture

No libertarian could say ...

To your points, no libertarian could say that war is great, that martial law is good, that the bill of right is bad. Since they are all obviously violations of the basic principles of freedom.

Saying Churchill served the good of the world may not be a violation of the principles of freedom depending on what you believe about him. Saying a abortion isn't murder may not be a violation of the principles of freedom depending on what you believe about the nature of human life.

That is not to say that we should not hold firm views on any of these things - just that excluding someone from the "libertarian" philosophy for having different views does a disservice to the principles we espouse.

This is a piece for intellectual tolerance - not for relativism.

On the other hand

orthodoxy is freedom. "All who sin are slaves to sin" - morally speaking, orthodoxy is king for anyone looking for real liberty! There is no liberty to murder others, steal, or even to engage in private vices. That would be a tyranny of the self! Proverbs, "There is a way that seems good to a man, but all that it leads to in the end is death". Therefore, beware of dangerous "unorthodox liberty". Also beware of orthodox libertarianism - I can't even name how many times I felt less free being around some "libertarians". No, Ron Paul is not my favorite libertarian. We get stuck in patterns sometimes. "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free".

"The world has never known more oppressive governments or bigger governments than those which profess the cult of liberty." - Donald Sanborn

Denise B's picture

Your statement

"Orthodox libertarianism may be less dangerous than Orthodox Christianity" tends to make me believe that your desire to have those in the liberty movement offer full acceptance to all ideas of what people deem to be liberty, rather than to demonize or argue about differing beliefs is a little less than genuine. Christians are a big part of the liberty movement and some have made valuable contributions in promoting the value and importance of liberty, yet in your one statement quoted above, you actually referenced Chrisitan orthodoxy as being dangerous. Doesn't sound very welcoming or tolerant of a specific group within the liberty movement...

Or am I misunderstanding your statement?

Robin Koerner's picture

All that sentence means is that "Orthodoxy" is dangerous

... and the bigger the reach of the orthodoxy in question, the bigger the danger.

So it's a statement about orthodoxy per se, not any particular belief system.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, obviously.

The thrust of this whole piece is that if one's fundamental orientation is toward freedom, including freedom of thought, then one cannot consistently (and effectively) belittle the views of those who see freedom differently from oneself...

That's like Saying

"Everyone is entitled to their beliefs"

.....But don't believe it TOO much.

"The Yankee is compelled to toil to make the world go around."
-Admiral Raphael Semmes, CSN

"the views of those who see

"the views of those who see freedom differently from oneself..."

So, what if someone sees slavery as freedom (doublespeak)? Sorry, I cannot agree with you here.

Christians should not be warmongers!

Robin Koerner's picture

Then he would be completely wrong, obviously...

If someone believes slavery is consistent with liberty, he is obviously wrong. If you think this article argues differently, please reread.

You cannot use anything in this article to argue for the rightness or wrongness of any particular views: that is not what this piece is about. It is about the way in which views are held and shared.

So, to apply the argument in the piece to your example, I would say only that an orthodoxy that held that slavery is compatible with liberty would not be inhibit someone who held that view from seeing that he is mistaken. If he held that view with an open mind and willingness to improve his understanding of liberty (rather than believing that his own view is the standard for testing others' views of liberty), he would be able to see the error of his view and change his ways. Moreover, that willingness to improve and learn would make him a more effective advocate for liberty thereafter.

Hope that clarifies. Thanks

Not Sure

I object to Mr. Koerner’s argument against “orthodoxy” due to my own perception of the example of Dr. Paul’s journey with Ronald Reagan starting in the 70’s and ultimately ending in disillusionment in the 80’s. For a libertarian like Dr. Paul to support a popular politician who spouted some libertarian themes prior to sitting in office, he seemed to attempt to forego libertarian orthodoxy for inclusiveness and electoral success. When reading Dr. Paul’s thoughts on this period you can see hope turn to cynicism. The history of the Reagan years is replete with betrayals of the principles of liberty. To discredit libertarian orthodoxy is, in my opinion, is to discredit Dr. Paul, the man who never compromised on the principles and premises of liberty even when he was alone in the political wilderness. Obviously, it is necessary to tolerate differences of opinion when debating the opponents of liberty but one should never compromise on the premises of liberty. Many people, unfortunately, conflate tolerance of differing opinions with acceptance, even celebration. Ultimately, this leads to dilution, co-option, meaninglessness, mainly through abuse of language and (attempting to) get along to go along (See Ronald Reagan & Rand Paul). Liberty is not just another shade of gray.

Robin Koerner's picture

I think you're agreeing with me

You say, "it is necessary to tolerate differences of opinion when debating the opponents of liberty but one should never compromise on the premises of liberty."

YES! the problem I am writing of here is that people mistake their positions on particular issues for "the premises of liberty".

People, being finite and imperfect, and having different experiences and coming from different cultures etc., sometimes draw different conclusions from those premises - and that is ok. To make it not ok is to reduce the likelihood that our principles will succeed.

We all believe in "non-aggression". That principle can be effectively applied in dealing with those who also love liberty, but reach different conclusions about its application in particular areas/respects...

Individuals express their ideas in different ways

Individuals express their ideas in different ways. Nothing wrong with that. The real problem is 'consensus'. Sounds like you're attacking individual expression rather than focusing on breaking a consensus opinion that you aren't comfortable with. To break the consensus you just need to speak out and inspire/encourage enough others to do the same. The orthodoxy or consensus will be broken. You bring up a valid danger but you seem to suggest another form of thought control which is to stop individuals from pushing their 'orthodox' opinions aggressively which might be just as bad as what you accuse them of trying to do to you.

Robin Koerner's picture

Orthodoxy is not consensus

Consensus is what you have when a group shares the same view/opinion.

A single person can exhibit an orthodoxy. It is a state of mind: it istThe idea that "There is only one right view of liberty". That there is only one view of anything is what is at odds with liberty.
(I'm adding a couple of lines to the article to make this even clearer. Thanks!)

No but there is nothing stopping it from becoming a consensus

No but there is nothing stopping it from becoming a consensus, unless people step up and fight it. Why are you threatened by a single individual who has a certain set of beliefs that you consider to be orthodox? I'm actually trying help you realize what the real problem is. You still haven't explained how you justify trying to apply your version of thought control to these individuals.

Robin Koerner's picture

Maybe I wasn't clear enough

Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my article.

In answer to your question, "Why are you threatened by a single individual who has a certain set of beliefs that you consider to be orthodox?", "orthodoxy" in the way I use it in this piece does not refer to any beliefs held. Completely contradictory beliefs can all be held as orthodoxies by different people.

"Orthodoxy" refers to the way the beliefs are held. I am describing an epistemological phenomenon, here. In other words, the thrust of this piece is precisely against requiring conformity (thought control) in the beliefs of those who love liberty - beyond the foundational principles that comprise its definition, of course.

Of course, you are right that an Orthodoxy by consensus is more dangerous than that of an individual, which is, I guess, the motivation for the article. And I certainly don't feel threatened by any individuals. I love Liberty and want to see the movement succeed. I am sharing my experience of things that I see may hinder that effort (as you are doing in your comment, for which thanks).

I absolutely am not trying to apply a "version of thought control to any individuals". Not sure where that comes from or what you are referring to - as I don't advocate for any particular thoughts/beliefs here, but rather a state of mind of being open to the idea that there may always be something I do not know, which could change (or refine) my mind... and that other people that are at a different point of their evolution, with different experiences, and with a different understanding of liberty's finer points should not be put down or excluded - at least if we want our values to take hold.

Acceptance, though Liberal, must be reasoned succintly.

This is the failure of classical liberalism, which allowed itself to be overthrown by doublespeak! Some things can't be flexed nearly as much as we like. An acceptance of people tilting in the favor found in Occam's Razor towards "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" is really the essential acceptance. Some hardcore libertarians who may or may not be pro-life even accept this truth.
Patent Pending Magnetic Pen Holder!

Call me an Orthodox Libertarian

I believe in the NAP 100%.

Robin Koerner's picture

If you put that first, then you are NOT an orthodox libertarian!

You are principled libertarian!

An orthodox libertarian has a set of other views about a myriad things that he uses to judge the "libertarian" purity of others.



non-aggression principle


Michael Nystrom's picture

Beautiful essay Robin

Thank you so much. Very well written, and very eloquently expressed.