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September 10, 2003

So I've Been Told: Social Theory

Distributive Justice has some interesting quizzes. I've been taking these so often recently, just to check my own head, that I might create a category 'So I've Been Told'.

Aside from the ahistorical wierdness of imposing a theory of society on people and the attendant violence implicit in the assumptions of revolution, it's an interesting idea that somebody might just decide on some rules for society. Nevertheless, the very name 'Distributive Justice' gives me the creeps. It makes me think of a horde of Wall Street Brokers and Socialists in an auction of the goods and services of the world. Did I mention crap table pit bosses? Yeah them too.

It comes as a pleasant surprise to me that I am in favor of (as much as can be determined) a Meritocracy and that I am a Right Libertarian. Seeing that Hayek, whom I have only recently discovered and Robert Nozick, whom I've admired for some time, are also Right Libertarians gives me a good deal of comfort as I explain myself.

My reservations against Hayek will come into focus over time, but there is something about the Pluralist theory that strikes me as correct as well. People do see themselves multidimensionally - they take comfort that if they're not so smart, at least they're pretty hot looking, and if neither of those, they can kick the ass of those who are. There are a million ways to get your own self-esteem, but it seems to me that they are only legitimated to the extent that there are no restrictions on the way people can be recognized and rewarded in society. That means that a pluralist architecture needs to reside within the individual not in the Department of Approved Esteems. This is already happening, but only in societies where the lot of these values are fungible via money. It's OK to want to be Brittany Spears, so long as she makes money. It's also OK to want to be Al Sharpton, so long as he gets money. We can be whatever and sustain ourselves in a free market economy of esteems. We can even experiment and want to be Marilyn Manson. The price of that desire is unsustainable.

Dworkin's theory just strikes me as twisted. It may be the way the summary was written, but I don't see how anyone can make sense of it.

Right Libertarianism is mostly perfect except that it doesn't account for the Commons. The role of government is to force a space in which individualism doesn't work and that the rules of the market don't apply. It is the seed space that anchors the entire system, it is the uncorruptible kernel and lynchpin of Libertarian freedom, it is the well of stuff that is free, the glue of society and the Goedelian exception that completes the system. The contract of the Libertarian society is to retain that civilizing force. This degrades the efforts of everyone, but recharges the system.

Posted by mbowen at September 10, 2003 12:17 PM

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You might find some things to like and dislike in this debate at the Boston Review New Democracy Forum. An article called Reclaiming the Commons by David Bollier
is criticized and/or praised by a number of literati.

Posted by: back40 at September 13, 2003 09:31 PM