Bridge-building, public relations and tribalism

Justin Oliver at Who Plans Whom? (a question based on what I consider a false dichotomy) comments on Making Liberty Popular, by which he seems to mean making property rights popular with the unpropertied classes. He raises concerns such as “I think those politically moderate Republicans have a valid concern that their party could run the risk of prompting a backlash from voters,” and “That is why advocates of liberty need to think strategically to appreciate how alleged pro-liberty reforms could injure the most vulnerable in society, making genuine reforms to advance liberty seem callous and lacking in empathy.” There is an emphasis on perception here, as if the purpose is to give the “pro-liberty right” public relations advice. Oliver reaches a conclusion that addresses not image but substance: “I think popular actions would be to target those prior acts of intervention that make the secondary regulations appear necessary. Rather than hacking at the branches, which have unintended consequences of their own, of government intervention, we can spend our resources striking at the root in principled and still politically popular ways.”

The trouble with the root striking metaphor is that the root is always the state. I draw the battle lines between individuals and institutions, not private and public, so for me the root is “hierarchy in the abstract,” which could be something as subtle or subliminal as someone speaking or carrying themself in a way that conveys dominance. Striking it, to me, means constantly fighting every habit, imprint and possible genetic tendency of domestication to communicate in every way I can that I regard everyone I meet as an absolute equal.

Now I’m aware that right-wing libertarians see harm in those parts of the regulatory bureucracy that affect the little people; mostly licensing and zoning. What they do with that awareness, for the most part, is hit us bleeding hearts over the head with the “fact” that their philosophy is better than our philosophy for achieving our objectives. The implication being “why don’t you just give up already and concede that markets are what works?” Would it kill these small-government conservatives who increasingly call themselves libertarians to spend the next few decades focusing on the petty local tyrannies that are the perimeter lines of defense for business insiderdom, perhaps even at the expense of the struggle against the maze of federal agency regulations? The long-standing alliance/overlap between small-government conservatives and the cause of “states’ rights” would suggest not. But there is hope. One organization that has attracted my attention (and some begrudging admiration, in spite of the Tea Party tone) is F.A.C.E.OFF. (Fight Against Code Enforcement OFFice). Stylistically they are very right-of-center, with their central issue framed as “property rights” and their bogeymen including what they call “green goons,” which definitely alienates me, as my conflict with local authority is more “food not lawns” than “buildings not wetlands,” plus I’m queer, trans and agnostic and a social anticonservative all around, and I don’t have a track record of getting along well with the people who rally around symbols such as muscular eagle depictions, the “clean-cut salesman” look that so many evangelicals seem to have, and the  Gadsden flag which has recently become fashionable among Tea Party groups. But I give the F.A.C.E.OFF. group kudos for seeing that sometimes the most abusive forms of authority are at the local level. There is nothing anti-authoritarian about decentralization of authority, and of course there is nothing anti-statist about “states rights.”

About n8chz

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4 Responses to Bridge-building, public relations and tribalism

  1. Poor Richard says:

    In our zeal to assert our absolute equality, let us not be overly bothered by those with a zeal to assert their absolute superiority, unless they get in our way.

  2. n8chz, I appreciate your thoughtful input.

    Just to clarify, I do not believe “that the root is always the state.” I think the problem is cultural. With that said, it is correct to say (if I understand your point) that we fall short of our potential by subjugating the will of others, regardless of the way in which that subjugation takes place.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I agree that the root is not the state, but that’s the political aspect of the root (if you use political to mean involving institutions of authority in society). The root is not the state because the root is not narrowly political, IMHO.

    • n8chz says:

      If you defer to someone on something as routine as a cab or a park bench, it’s potentially political. More likely it’s just plain courtesy, but if a “pattern with usual suspects” emerges, it’s definitely political. What you call political I call de jure.

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