Monday, July 9, 2018

Migration complexities and the campaigns against social bargaining

This is based on a comment I made here.

Coming from a country (Australia) with a much higher proportional immigration flow than the US, I find US debates over migration odd.

First, the level of illegal immigration in the US is clearly a huge problem. It distorts the debate, creates a black market in labour and gives lots of voters the feeling of having no effective say (because they don’t). Without effective border control, and with significant inflows of illegal migrants, the effective value of the lever of the ballot is greatly reduced, and and ordinary voters have no other lever other than the vote to influence a policy area fundamental to the future evolution of any polity.

Second, treating immigrants as an undifferentiated mass is just silly. I know economics lends itself to that, with people as interchangeable utility-maximising machines, but what is missed is that culture affects framing, expectations and preferences so that the same situation can create quite different incentives to people of different cultural heritages. (See, for example, the ethnic complexities in who voted leave in the Brexit 2016 vote.)

It is an observable fact that, for example, (1) different groups of migrants have different crime rates and (2) mainstream Sunni Muslims, given that mainstream Sunni Islam is a religion of domination, create problems no other group of migrants do, and the more so the proportionately larger group they are. (As adherents of "permanent minority" forms of Islam IbadisAlevisIsmailis and Ahmmadis are not an issue: they have gone down the same path that rabbinical Judaism did, abandoning the tendency to become homicidally enraged over God's law being trumped by pagan/goy/infidel law.)

Denmark, for example, seems determined to be not-Sweden and to minimise the welfare/crime/cultural difference costs of migration. Cultural difference costs are particularly significant when operating a welfare model which effectively requires high degree of cultural homogeneity to work in order to minimise free riding and maximise information flows between officials and recipients.

Third, treating migrants as having no (negative) effect on incentives within the country of receipt is just silly. For example, the combination of lots of non-voting housing market entrants with positional goods is more or less guaranteed to create regulatory restrictions on the supply of housing land, with consequent upward effects on rents and house-prices. An effect likely to be particularly strong in coast cities with nice hills: economist Paul Krugman's Zoned Zoned versus Flatland effect. [Which means more of GDP goes to land rent.]

Fourth, I am deeply sceptical about “(all) migrants are (always) an economic positive” arguments. See the point about migrants not being an undifferentiated mass, the effect on housing markets, variable social welfare costs and differentiated effects on residents depending on access to capital and place of residence.

Obviously significant migration is a positive to capital holders if it thereby increase the relative scarcity premium from such capital. The effect on labour income is rather more complicated.  For high levels of migration on labour income to not lead to lower-that-it-would-otherwise-be income from labour for the resident providers of labour requires that demand for their labour increase, even though the overall supply of labour is increasing due to the inflow of other providers of labour. Robert Fogel, in his Without Consent or Contract (which I reviewed here) provided strong evidence that mass C19th migration to the US was not good for native-born workers.

Australian migration policy is essentially set up to not disturb the capital/labour balance. (We are the only country in the Western world, that is not a micro-state, whose migrants are a net gain to average human capital.)

Fifth, even in Australia, where popular opinion is generally strongly pro-migrant (but not illegal migrant: conflating the two issues poisons migration debates [and polling results are tending towards having less migration [pdf]), the congestion costs are beginning to wear away at support for current levels of migration. Making sure your physical, social and political infrastructure is up to a significant migrant influx is actually quite difficult. Especially as aforementioned housing market effect actually militates against having adequate physical infrastructure (by raising its costs and lowering its tax revenue benefit). The US political system does not strike me as currently functional enough to well manage such. The EU political system(s) in some ways, even less so.

Sixth, when reviewing "migration is a net positive" papers, relevant questions to ask are:

(1) Does it differentiate between effects on labour income and capital income for the existing residents? If the answer is no, the paper is useless to the point of effective dishonesty, as who gets what benefit (and what costs) is crucial to understanding the effects of migration. Even if it does look at resident labour and capital income effects separately, does it incorporate wage stickiness effects? In particular, does it incorporate that the most likely negative effect on labour income from migration is not to lower wages, but to block their rise? Merely observing that there is little evidence that wages are being actually lowered is not, in itself, proof that wages are not being "flattened".  See here for a relatively simple model which works from precisely that effect.

(2) Does it measure the fiscal/welfare effects? Including any crowding or congestion effects on access to government services and support? Different migrants groups and profiles have very different effects on demand and use of welfare services. It is not helpful, or even analytically sensible, to treat immigrants, in the felicitous words of one study (pdf), “as a homogeneous huddled mass”.

(3) Does it measure crime/distrust effects? Raising the level of ethnic diversity tends to decrease levels of social trust which tends to increase the level of crime even if the newcomers commit less crimes on average than the existing residents. If an incoming group has a higher tendency to commit crimes than the residents, the effect is magnified. (And popular views of relative level of criminality among different migrants groups can be relatively accurate [pdf], though in the US general stereotypes about migrants seems to be dominated by [pdf] perceived patterns among Hispanic migrants.) These effects are, however, likely to be highly localised, with little or no impact on national crime trends, which again points to distributional effects mattering. Though enough localised effects can start adding up, as in Britain's rape gang scandals.  [CORRECTION: It appears that economist Bryan Caplan's criticism of Putnam's original paper on diversity was spot on, that it is not diversity per se which lowers trust, but other features associated with high migrant neighbourhoods: which adjusts, rather than refutes, the point.]

(4) Does it incorporate infrastructure effects? If the paper effectively assumes that physical, social and political infrastructure is infinitely flexible, then it is pushing nonsense on stilts. Simply considering physical infrastructure effects alone, as noted above, the effect of raising the proportion of housing entrants who are non-voters in a situation of positional goods (normal in coastal cities, for example, particularly if there are also scenic-hill effects) greatly increases the likelihood of regulatory limitation of use of land for housing which raises the (opportunity) cost of building infrastructure (as the value of land-for-housing is increased) and reduces the net revenue value of building infrastructure (as regulatory restriction of land use drives up value of taxes on such land in itself).

In my own city of Melbourne, for example, anyone outside the inner city "bubble" is well aware that (1) traffic congestion has got noticeably worse in recent years and (2) the main reason is the failure of transport infrastructure to keep up with the migrant inflow. So people are experiencing, from more and more time spent in heavy traffic, a significant daily cost to them from high levels of migration.

As for political infrastructure, there was much pointing and laughing/sneering that anti-migrant sentiment was an element in the Brexit vote, yet support for leaving was highest in areas with the least number of migrants. There is no contradiction here; if people observe that issues connection to migration take up a great deal of public debate and attention, but there are very few migrants in their area, then that means all that debate and attention is directed away from where they live. An example of the point about political infrastructure not being infinitely flexible.

Status sacralising
What makes all this worse is that members of what economic historian Thomas Piketty calls The Brahmin Left (pdf), but I prefer to think of as Brahmin Progressivism (since key ideas are neither Enlightenment-based nor class-framed, so not "Left" in the sense that applied from 1789 to 1991), have become addicted to using migration as a sacred idea (especially the sacred value of "diversity") for Brahmin Progressivism's moralised, taboo-generating status claims. (Taking the notion and use of 'sacred' from social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, see here [pdf].)

Migration is moved out of the realm of social bargaining, operating according to various perceptions and calculations of costs and benefits, and moved into the realm of sacred status-markers where disagreement with any key status-marker position is direct evidence of sin, and one does not, of course, bargaining with sinners! because that is to negotiate with evil. This secular sacralisation (in this case of diversity) creates, for example, sinful books.

Suggesting that diversity has costs, that different migrants groups tend to provide different costs and benefits, even that there should be effective border enforcement, all become attacks on the sacredness of diversity (which, being sacred, cannot be discussed in terms of trade-offs without being tainted). Diversity should also, of course, being sacred, reach everywhere. But not, "obviously", cognitive diversity, because that means sin and evil. This despite cognitive diversity being the form of diversity which studies regularly find does have positive benefits while the forms of diversity which are sacralised have no identifiable connection with, for example, better decision-making or group performance. But such benefits-and-costs analysis are not to be permitted to taint the sacred value of diversity.

Economic papers that essentially "leave out" the hard bits of the effects of significant levels of migration become one-sided chips to be played in in these sacralised status games. They become, rather than contributions to public debate, weapons in a drive to undermine the operation, even the concept, of effective social bargaining over migration conceived as manifesting the sacred value of diversity.


There is a religion-size hole in many WEIRD psyches and, to a significant degree, in Western societies in general. Using politics to feed that hole is disastrous, as politics is about the arrangement and direction of society via public policy, so politics-as-substitute-religion turns policy and politics, not into a system of bargaining and trade-offs, but an exercise in personal salvation centred around barred-from-trade-offs sacred objects and involving a (naturally escalating) war against sin and sinners.

It would be helpful if economists played a little less into such games and rather more into grappling with the genuine complexities of migration.  After all, the Western world has previously gone through a period where politics became about salvation and wars against sin, and it was not a happy experience.


[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Marx at 200 and Robespierre at 260

This year is the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx (1818-1883). A recent biography of Marx (reviewed here) places him very much as a man of his time. It is a sign of the success of Marx that his legacy is still so debated; it is a sign of his failure that defending Marx involves separating him, and his ideas, from the record of mass murder and tyranny of regimes calling themselves Marxist.

The latter line of apologia has a major problem: the prescient predictions of various of his contemporaries about where his ideas (and his praxis) would lead. If perceptive contemporaries could perceive the potential for disaster in his ideas in advance, it seems a bit otiose to deny the connection in retrospect.

Conclusions becoming premises
Part of the problem is that Marx was not ideologically consistent. His ideas of proper social goals become somewhat more grandiose and totalising over time. So, one can cite earlier writings as a defence against the implications and influence of the later writings. Which leads into the “good intentions” defence—if we cite Marx’s morally engaging statements, we can then claim that clearly he has nothing to do with what was done in his name (see here). Marx, after all, did famously state that he was not a Marxist.

But neither was Freud a Freudian, or Kuhn a Kuhnian and so on. This is the progression pointed out by Etienne Gilson (1884-1978)—the conclusions of the master are the premises of the disciple. Which is a very old pattern. When Philo of Alexandria used Greek natural law theory to effectively re-write the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), rejecting the rabbinical oral tradition and proposing a claim that sits poorly with the actual text, one can see both old and new interpretations in his own writing (in On Abraham XXVI-XXIX). Those that followed just took his natural law imposition on the text and dropped the complexities. As can be seen in St John Chrysostom’s homilies on Romans. So, what had been a story about God destroying societies which were anti-moral, which actively punished good behaviour, became a story about how people of the same sex having sex was treason against the purposes of the Creator (hence worthy of death). Which Philo himself, in his polemical war with Greek religious and sexual culture, was clearly just fine with (see Special Laws III: VII).

So, conclusions have consequences. Hence Bakunin (1814-1876) and other contemporaries picking accurately where Marx’s ideas would lead. It is misleading and dangerous to put so much weight on stated intentions, especially moral intentions as it is precisely the making-trumps element of morality which makes it so potentially oppressive. How things are framed (especially how other people are characterised), the means extolled, scale of the purposes embraced: these all matter at least as much, and often rather more, than intentions, however morally engaging they might be. But we live in an age where many people are deeply invested in moral entitlement status games based on their ostentatious moral intentions.

The Left that was
From 1789 to 1991, across the long C19th (1789-1914) and the short C20th (1914-1991), the term Left in politics had broadly consistent referents. The term started off with who sat where in the French National Assembly. The 1789-1991 Left was, in all its forms, a product of the Enlightenment and largely framed its moral and social analysis in terms of class. It was divided between the Radical Enlightenment; those who believed that applied human reason could transform man, that human nature was plastic to applied social action: and the Sceptical Enlightenment; those who believed that human reason could improve human social conditions but nevertheless had to deal with humanity as it was and had been.

This division, and associated (albeit often implicit) claims about human nature, went at least as far back as the Grandee-Leveller Putney Debates (1647) during the English Civil Wars with Henry Ireton (1611-1651) leading the Grandees, and Thomas Rainsborough (1610-1648), leading the Levellers. The antinomian aspirations and totalitarian tendencies of the Radical Enlightenment Left went even further back, to the radical heresy movements so brilliantly analysed by historian Norman Cohn in The Pursuit of the Millennium.

But that the Left did not erupt ex nihilo does not invalidate that there was a coherent Left in European and European-derived politics across the two centuries from 1789 to 1991—a product of the Enlightenment among whom various class-framings of politics and moral action were dominant. That Left has remarkably little in common with contemporary progressivism, as it has abandoned class framings and embraced Post-Enlightenment ideas (often, somewhat over-narrowly, labelled postmodernism). If one resurrected Karl Marx—or, for that matter Lenin (1870-1924) or Keir Hardie (1856-1915)—they would find familiar and congenial remarkably few of the concerns and obsessions of contemporary progressivism.

Conversely, if one resurrected Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), he would absolutely find familiar the concerns of contemporary progressivism. He would, of course, have a somewhat different take (apart from blame-the-Jews and a functional preference for Islam and Muslims over Christianity and Christians) but the concerns of contemporary progressivism (sex, the stories we tell about sex aka gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, population movements, environmentalism and the valorisation of nature, identity, subjectivity and emotion over reason) were absolutely his concerns. Nor is this some sort of weird outcome; it flows naturally from the reality that the Post-Enlightenment, with its concern for emotion, experience and subjectivity, is the Counter-Enlightenment rebooted and Hitler was the embodiment of the Counter-Enlightenment as a political project.

The Jacobin curse
While I do not agree with anything close to an absolute separation of Marx’s ideas from the history of the attempt to operationalise them, it is still an error to put all the blame on Marx. For there was another figure whose influence on politics across those two centuries, and beyond, has been more disastrous.

That was Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) who, along with his political associates, such as Louis Saint-Just (1767-1794), created, not merely as conception but as practice, the Jacobin model of politics. The Jacobin model of politics is politics unlimited in means and unlimited in scope. That, is, politics willing to engage in any level of killing and repression, and willing to expand into any aspect of society and social interaction, to achieve its ends. A model of politics which relies on its sense of profound moral purpose to justify its refusal to accept limits in means and scope and, somewhat more implicitly, relies on its sense of profound social understanding to give the required confidence that what it does will lead where it intends.

That Marx’s ideas were profoundly congenial for the Jacobin model of politics is obvious. They bring together both the sense of profound, trumping moral purpose and the sense of profound understanding of human social dynamics. Lenin very explicitly saw himself as applying Jacobin politics to Marx’s ideas as the necessary way to operationalise them. A bringing together that successfully established the first enduring explicitly Marxist regime and led to, at its height, a third of humanity being ruled by such regimes. A bringing together, furthermore, that many, many intellectuals who regarded themselves as followers of Marx implicitly or explicitly endorsed.

Not all, of course; Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) famously demurred. But her murder amidst the failure of the Spartacus uprising both silenced her voice and associated her ideas with failure. And those political Parties which were officially Marxist, but remained committed to democratic praxis, came to abandon Marx’s ideas. Something of a hint there, methinks.

The reality is, Marx’s ideas were ideally suited for the Jacobin temptation and it has been only by acceding to that path that they have come anywhere near implementation. Of course, the conjunction turned out to be nothing like any form of human liberation: a warning in itself. It is, moreover, a general problem: what looks like Morality’s Empire so easily and recurrently becomes Moral Tyranny and then simply Tyranny. Marx’s ideas had particularly weak barriers to that progression. On the contrary, they slid down it oh, so easily.

But the poisonous influence of the Jacobin model extends well beyond the history of Leninism and its offshoots. Italian Fascism and German Nazism both represented the application of the Jacobin model to political projects: in the case of Fascism, to the project of Italian nationalism. In the case of Nazism, to the project of Aryan racial supremacy. If Lenin was Marx+Robespierre, Mussolini was Mazzini+Robespierre and and Hitler was Houston Stewart Chamberlain+Robespierre.

Of the three meldings of the Jacobin model of politics to political projects, Italian Fascism was by far the least morally and humanly disastrous. That was because Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) was by far the most liberal thinker, compared to Marx or Chamberlain (1855-1927), and Italian nationalism was by far the most limited political project of the three.

Hiding from oneself
One of the purposes in the promiscuous use of the term Fascist!, even to claiming that German Nazism (whose victims number in the millions and whose ambitions ignited a world war) and Italian Fascism (whose domestic victims numbered in the hundreds and whose ambitions led to minor wars of opportunistic conquest) were just instances of the same phenomena, morally indistinguishable from each other, is to obscure the fact that, without Nazism, no modern political movement had remotely the record of tyranny and mass murder of various forms of Leninist regimes. It is deeply embarrassing to leave intensive manifestations of the Left as the peak of mass murderous tyranny, hence the endless invocations of Fascism! and of racism as the worst sin ever.

It is even more embarrassing to note that what made Nazism so horrible was not how different it was from the radical Left, but how similar it was. The grandeur of its ambitions for social transformation, the intensity of its mobilisation of society, the depth of its organised penetration of social institutions, all these were far more like the radical Left than any part of the broad non-Left (aka Right).

Nazi Germany institutionally resembled the Soviet Union far more than it did any of the Western democracies. Even now, as the People’s Republic of China retreats from command economics, it increasingly institutionally resembles Nazi Germany, without the Jew-hatred and Lebensraum ambitions (whatever its South China Sea ambitions, barely anyone actually lives there). Though the overseas Chinese communities provide some potential for irredentist politics.

So, it is very expedient for progressivists to shout “Fascism!” a lot and treat racism as the worst-thing-ever; to talk about Marx’s intentions and ignore the prescience of his contemporary critics. And do it even louder so as to obscure the abandonment of the concerns of the Enlightenment Left and the adoption of those of the Counter-Enlightenment, politically personified in Adolf Hitler. With Paul de Man (1919-1983), Heidegger (1889-1976) and Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), not to mention environmentalism, even providing ideological bridges.

A lot of the moral outrage and moral tub-thumping of contemporary progressivism is about hiding unfortunate political resonances and commonalities: above all, from themselves. But they are people obsessed with their sense of moral status and entitlement burbling endlessly on about equality; so there is a lot of cognitive dissonance to be hidden: above all, from themselves.

Is-people versus Ought-people
The history of the Jacobin model, of grand moral intentions and social understandings, gives us plenty of insights and warnings. But that is so only if you are an is-person who thinks that history is what has happened; that human nature is fairly consistent, so history is a source of warning and insight. If you are an ought-person, who elevates moral intentions as the measure of all things, for whom is history is about the glorious imagined and intentioned future, not limited by the constraints of human nature, then this is just a catalogue of past sins with which the well-intentioned need not concern themselves. And so they don’t, except to distance themselves from it.

Which also makes then not the people you want in charge of anything serious, given how many facts and historical lessons they are hiding from; so it is worrying how much they are now in charge of the culturally significant. In their informative and fun How Women Got Their Curves, the authors observe that:
the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that entropy or disorder increases in natural systems unless energy is available to counteract this process, applies to organisms no less than to nonliving, physical systems.
And also applies to social systems created by organisms. The assiduous efforts, in the name of morality's empire, to exclude people and concerns from social life, the war on inconvenient facts, the pervasive attack on the wellsprings of culture: folk pursuing such are an increasingly pervasive force for social entropy, and not in any good way.

A certain sense of impending slow disaster seems appropriate, this 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, 260th anniversary of Robespierre’s birth and 231st anniversary of Robespierre’s election to the Estates-General of the Kingdom of France.

ADDENDA: Branko Milanovic reminds us that, without Engels Marx might have passed into obscurity and without Lenin Marx would have nowhere near the global significance his thought achieved.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

Friday, February 23, 2018

A misconceived attack on libertarianism

Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay have produced a Manifesto Against the Enemies of Modernity. There is much to agree with in it but at least one part is thoroughly misconceived, which is the attack on libertarianism.

Such an attack is a strange thing to read in such a manifesto, for if any ideology seems a product of modernity it is libertarianism, an intense form of liberalism. The heroes of libertarianism are very much modern figures, with the earliest thinker being regularly invoked being C17th philosopher John Locke. Some of the more historically minded might cite the Salamanca School, but for their economic reasoning, and perhaps some of their natural law reasoning, not their Catholicism.

Indeed, the most potentially fruitful lines of attack on libertarianism would be to accuse it of being a particularly autistic manifestation of modernity. "Dissident right" blogger Zman let's loose with a blast along those lines here.

Yet Pluckrose and Lindsay line up the libertarians (or at least a significant strain of such thought) with the premodern right:
Premodernism valorizes simplicity and purity that it imagines in terms of Natural roles, Laws, and Rights. It feels these have been subverted by the growth of institutions and complex social structures. It also deeply distrusts expertise for a wide variety of complicated reasons, including a certain self-assured and yet self-pitying resentment of sociocultural betterment, the undermining of “Natural” roles, the questioning and challenging of traditional values, and engineering in the social, cultural, and political spheres.
In the case of libertarians, particularly, a major influence is the political theory of Friedrich Hayek, who saw the increasing centralized regulation by government in the more recent Modern period as a gradual return to serfdom which threatens to bring about totalitarianism. In The Road to Serfdom, he argues, mirroring the postmodernists, that knowledge and truth is, in this way, inextricably linked to and constructed by power structures. Here and in The Constitution of Liberty, Hayek levied influential but profoundly dubious criticisms of rationalism in the forms of the expertise used in the planning and organization of socio-economic programs because, he argued, man’s knowledge is always limited. He warned that rationalism pushes a form of destructive perfectionism which disregards older traditions and values and restricts individual liberty.
The Road to Serfdom is not a very long book, yet remarkably often gets misrepresented. It is not a screed against regulation, still less against the welfare state, but against centralised economic planning. And if you think there is something wrong with the thesis that command economies and free societies (including democracy) are incompatible, I refer you to the right-in-front-of-our-eyes case of Venezuela.

It is many years since I read the book, but I do not remember any "mirroring the postmodernists" about knowledge and truth. Hayek's point was that command economies, by their nature, suppress and distort information, a key claim in the economic calculation debate.

The dispersed nature of knowledge was a key part of his thinking, distilled in his classic (and highly influential) 1945 essay The Use of Knowledge in Society.  Hayek's point about the limitations of states as users and shapers of information have since been revisited by James C. Scott (no libertarian he) in his contemporary classic Seeing Like A State.

Modernity or modernism?
It is useful to distinguish between modernity, well characterised by Pluckrose and Lindsay, and modernism which can be distilled down to the presumption that new is always better. That before the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, before the rise of modernity, humanity had failed to discover any useful about the human condition or human societies, it was all a fog of ignorance and superstition which needs to be rejected root-and-branch. It is an arrogant vice of modernity, which has been at times highly destructive and given us the recurring horrors of modern architecture.

To point out that our ancestors were not morons and failures just because they lived before modernity got underway is not to reject modernity. As some of those pre-modern legacies include Roman Law, the common law and Parliaments, not to mention Euclidean geometry and the Pythagorean scale, we are not entitled to such arrogance. Indeed, the Enlightenment itself was yet another dipping into the memory well of the Classical legacy, a feature less than entirely absent from the Scientific Revolution itself.

Limits and confidence
To explore the limits of reason and knowledge, and the limits of the human, is not to reject reason or knowledge. And there clearly are information limits on what states can manage to effectively do. The entire history of command economies is a lesson in that, which is precisely why the Beijing and Hanoi regimes have so profoundly wound back their command economies, to the great benefit of their citizens. 

One of the reasons libertarianism attracts such animus is precisely because it casts doubt on the capacities of the state, which threatens confidence in many people's favourite social transformation toy. That does not remotely put libertarianism outside the realm of modernity, still less make it premodern.

Lindsay and Pluckrose continue their attack on libertarianism:
This dim right-leaning view of individual liberty is paradoxically shared in considerable degree by the more culturally permissive premodern branch of anti-modern libertarians. Libertarians, particularly American ones, are distinguished by their insistences upon individual liberty being an unrivaled good. Yet theirs is a peculiar view of liberty that, despite being based in many of Modernity’s values, is overly narrow in its focus only upon restrictions of liberty issued by the state and thus rapidly ceases to be compatible with the institutions that enable Modernity. The oft-quoted epigram on the rattlesnake-bearing Gadsden Flag, “don’t tread on me,” is a good summary of their naively optimistic view of society: just leave them alone and everything will be fine. A similar mentality is found in the kind of Brexiter who focuses on the big themes of “independence” and “sovereignty” (going light on the details), whilst accusing everyone still unhappy about it of being undemocratic.
Which may make such folk wrong or misguided, but does not remotely make them enemies of modernity. Trying to insist that everyone line up in the "right sort" of modernity is quite different from a broad-based defence of modernity and is, in fact, somewhat antithetical to such a defence.

Modernity grew up in a period when states did far less than they currently do; in fact less than most contemporary libertarians (and certainly less than Hayek himself) would be comfortable with them doing. The claim that libertarian's "peculiar view of liberty"  "rapidly ceases to be compatible with the institutions that enable Modernity" is a deeply dubious one. The notion of spontaneous order that such view of liberty typically rest on may well be overstated, but is not remotely an anti-modernity idea: on the contrary, it is one of the ornaments of the Enlightenment. Yes, it has some premodern precursors, most obviously in the Tao, but only those suffering from the modernist arrogance would see that has somehow disabling. 

Antipathy to commerce
There is a long tradition of academics and intellectuals being antithetical to commerce. The superficial forms of the complaints change according to prevailing intellectual fashions, but the underlying complaints are remarkably consistent -- merchants are amoral, they make outrageously more money than decent moral folk (such as academics and intellectuals), they get in the way of (the current scheme for) social harmony. 

Commerce is indeed dynamic, risky and generates high income variance as a result. But it would be nice if intellectuals and academics could get over their angst about it: though, at two-and-half-millennia and counting, they probably won't. But that angst spills over into denunciations of that dreaded contemporary bug-bear neoliberalism and, in this case, libertarianism.

Reading Lindsay and Pluckrose's critique, I fail to see characteristics of actual libertarianism. One can read magazines such as Regulation, and the other publications of the Cato Institute, or Reason magazine (note the title) in vain for some attack on, or rejection of, modernity. To contest the direction of public policy, even profoundly, is not to reject modernity. Indeed, contesting the direction of public policy is almost a defining aspect of modernity.

About that state
What makes Pluckrose and Lindsay's attack on libertarianism even more misconceived is that they complain that postmodernists are a "tiny minority" yet wield disproportionate power. Indeed, and how do they do that? Primarily through the ever-expanding organs and networks of the diversity state, notably hitchhiking on "diversity" operating as a managerial ideology.

The recent memo from the US National Labor Relations Board that stated that referring to psychometric literature on sex differences is "discriminatory and sexual harassment" is a direct attack on use of scientific evidence in debate from within the bowels of the diversity state. The attack on due process in campuses Laura Kipnis so amusingly skewers came directly from the famous US Department of Education Title IX "Dear Colleague" letter.

Where do the indoctrinated products of PoMo social constructionist university education go? Into University administration, the organs of the administrative state, and corporate HR departments working off legal mandates. All those mid-level bureaucratic positions that the administrative state multiplies so steadily. Are Pluckrose and Lindsay still going to imply that modernity requires confidence, apparently expanding confidence, in the capacities of the state for social betterment?

In-betweens
Having made these way-overplayed critiques of libertarianism, that critique subsequently disappears from the essay. Libertarians have nothing to do with the patterns critiqued in the rest of the essay.

This is hardly surprising, as libertarians are something of an “in between” group, tending to be economic and social liberalisers. Pro-migration, pro-free trade, pro same-sex marriage, pro drug legalisation, police-power-sceptical: in terms of the left/right divide, this is something of an “offshore balancer” role. It clearly does not intensify the left-right debate and there is nothing in this list which is, in any way, anti-modernity.

Pluckrose and Lindsay's critique of libertarianism smacks of a lack of genuine familiarity with what is being critiqued intermixed with ideological antipathy that sits poorly with underlying message and intent of the essay which, in its own terms, is to encourage a broad coalition in defence of modernity. Sounds good to me, but let's include libertarians in, where they belong.


[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]