Autofyrsto links to an old post of mine on libertarian social engineering, where I make the argument that libertarians are the biggest viable social engineers in America today (I'm assuming - safely, I think - that state socialism is off the table). Strict libertarianism takes a blueprint for the organization of society that it has derived rationally from a few essential principles and seeks to impose that blueprint on society. They don't see it as an imposition, of course, because they see it as a reaction to other impositions. But their perception is largely irrelevant. The strict sort of libertarians (rather than "libertarians on the margin", like Greg Mankiw) pursue radical change on the basis of very little experimentation or experience. That's not inherently good or bad, but it's something to be cautious about.
Autofyrsto primarily takes issue with what he perceives to be my assault on reason and rationalism. He starts by making an issue out of the point in the David Brooks article I link where Brooks notes that Edmund Burke was "horrified" that "individuals would use abstract reason to sweep away arrangements that had stood the test of time". Atuofyrsto goes on to protest when in the blog post I link to Greg Mankiw admits that he "recoil[s] at more radical libertarian positions". Autofrysto writes that "If steam comes out of the libertarians’ ears, it is only at the frustration of arguing with people who openly and proudly muzzle the voice of reason so that they may continue to believe, at our expense, whatever makes them comfortable." Muzzle the voice of reason? This is an odd interpretation of what Brooks, Mankiw, and I were doing. We aren't unreasonable or unrational people, after all. It would be strange for us "openly and proudly muzzle the voice of reason". All we're suggesting is that human society is complex and a single person or a group of people can't map out a blueprint for it. Reason is a tool of the mind to be used, not abused. Autofyrsto seems to be arguing that the admonition not to abuse reason is an attempt to muzzle it. I disagree.
Autofrysto then goes on to cite a favorite of this blog, Thomas Paine:
"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master."
Again, no one here is renouncing the use and authority of reason. Quite the contrary. I am renouncing the unreasonable application of reason. I am renouncing the fetishism of reason. I am upholding the idea that man's reason is a great asset but renouncing the idea that it is capable of forseeing and planning all things. I'm advocating common sense, in other words, which makes the rebuke with Paine a little laughable. Autofrysto ends with this point, which I can agree with him whole-heartedly on:
"We should carefully scrutinize the so-called “wisdom of the ages” in light of reason, and abandon it when it fails that scrutiny. I don’t even know how to explain why. It seems so self-evident."
I think I may have blogged this before, but...
4 minutes ago