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Why Will Wilkinson Has No Argument

Apropos of two recent posts here at WWWtW, and in response to this characteristically unilluminating Will Wilkinson post, Daniel Larison highlights the non-discursive nature of Wilkinson's remarks:

My concluding points in these two cases (Two previous instances, linked in Daniel's piece, in which D.L. observes that Wilkinson is not really arguing anything - Maximos.) were to draw attention to the fact that the points of contention between Mr. Wilkinson and his interlocutors are not disagreements over anything like measurable practical benefits for the world’s poorest or anyone else. They are disagreements between libertarians such as Mr. Wilkinson and conservatives, because the two are sharply, seemingly irreconcilably at odds about basic values. He berates conservatives for privileging the interests of fellow citizens and countrymen (which he finds “morally abhorrent”), but beyond asserting that this act of privileging is wrong he does not give any persuasive reason why this should be so, except to fall back on his assumption that distinguishing between citizen and non-citizen is arbitrary and wrong.

I would like to enter a simple observation, namely, that there is a transparent reason for the non-discursive nature of Wilkinson's remarks, and that is, that their moral terms are functions of two (implicit) libertarian hallucinations claims: the right of the individual qua individual, as a unit of volition shorn of his historical contingencies, to maximize his personal utility, and the desirability of the global economic system becoming maximally efficient, in the aggregate, as a reflection of maximized personal utility functions - neither of which Wilkinson, or anyone else adopting similar positions, has deigned to defend, as opposed to assert. At this point, I could invoke MacIntyre on the incommensurability of the traditions, but the libertarian/liberal/globalist position is so radically at variance with, oh, everything from lived human experience to the findings of sociobiologists, that at this stage of the game it merits nothing more than derision.

Relatedly, Mr. Lee, incognizant of the follies of his previous post, has more or less done precisely what I said libertarians would do in my comments on Wilkinson, throwing in the hoary old libertarian shibboleth of 'denying social services to the masses of third-world utility-maximizers we are obligated to admit'. It is incumbent upon us to acknowledge that the willed imposition of such Dickensian conditions would be gravely immoral; albeit that denial would be the squaring of the circle - of the rights of Americans to maximize their utility and the rights of the third world migrants to maximize their utility - for the libertarian, for whom citizenship matters, except when it doesn't.

Libertarianism: applied autism.

Comments (4)

Lee himself is a self-professed examplar of the libertarian freeloader:

The taxpayers of Minnesota are no doubt irritated that I got a college education largely at their expense and then promptly moved out of the state. But I don’t think anyone would claim that I should be required to spend the rest of my life in Minnesota out of gratitude to the taxpayers there.

His kind of libertarian is the ultimate welfare queen, living off of a patrimony he despises because of the moral obligations that patrimony implies, and because that patrimony imples that most abhorrent of facts of history, that the libertarian is not in fact a free and equal self-made superman: that the free and equal superman, self-made through reason and will and never bound under particular obligations to any man by accident of history, is a modern liberal fantasy.

Nobody despises freeloading with quite the vehemence of a consummate freeloader.

The libertarian is an existential metonymy for the entirety of the modern political tradition, which resents and contemns the patrimony of Christendom all the more vehemently on account of its unacknowledged dependency upon that patrimony. They all protest too much.

It was just 10 to 20 years ago that Free Trade Uber Alles/Open Borderistas crowd was telling us that FT/OB is helping Americans, especially working and middle class.

Why, as "bad" jobs in manufacturing, input data processing, all engineering jobs in consumer electronics, etc are lost, we get a great opportunity, after being laid off of course, at "better" jobs.
We have a great choice of moving to manufacturing of high-end computers, computer design, software engineering, etc.

Well, it all gone now. "Bad", "good" and "great" jobs all moving offshore.
Free traitors desperately need new arguments to keep sheeple sleeping a while longer.

So, quasi-Christian arguments of helping a stranger come into play.

Hired propagandists like Wilkinson get new orders that they try to execute as they abilities allow (not very impressive in case of W).

Laws prohibiting necrophilia are a gross infringement of individuals personal liberty, but the consequences of importing the entire population of the third world are no big deal, and something Americans are morally obligated to live with.

"the libertarian/liberal/globalist position is so radically at variance with, oh, everything from lived human experience to the findings of sociobiologists, that at this stage of the game it merits nothing more than derision."

Well said. The funniest part of Lee's reasoning is that libertarians, who have no influence now, would somehow be able to enact certain policies after the borders were opened, as if the desires of the millions of new arrivals are inconsequential.

But then this isn't about actual people, it's about rationalist abstractions, and the moral outrage isn't really about morality, it's the agitated libertarian mind attempting to maintain these rationalist abstractions.

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