Posts tagged Aster

Re: Against Pseudo-Reform


If you are subsidized, then your insurance policy cannot cover abortions. But that’s how the law has stood since 1976 (see Hyde Amendment). So the new legislation changes nothing.

Of course it does. Specifically, the new legislation (through a combination of subsidies, captive-market mandates, and new regulations on insurance corporations) is designed to corral more women (and men) into government-subsidized plans. That is, last I checked, the point of the “reform.”

Of course, more thoroughly statist options (like, say, putting everyone on Medicare, as some “social democrats” have proposed) would be even worse, in that total conversion of the healthcare industry to political allocation would mean the total subordination of women’s reproductive healthcare to the political mandates of Hyde et al. But this proposal is bad enough. And if your response depends on a claim that government subsidies to one good don’t tend to crowd out substitute goods, then I have to wonder where you would get that notion.


If that’s not Left-Libertarian enough, I hope this is. Charles suggested it. Please click the red ‘Recommend’ button at the bottom if you like.

Although I certainly do support grassroots-organized community free clinics (on the model of the Panther clinics or the feminist women’s health center / women’s self-help clinic movement), I certainly do not favor having goverment “create” community health care centers. And while I very much appreciate the notions of (1) divorcing the idea of “universal health care” from “government health care”; and (2) doing so through voluntary grassroots alternatives to corporate health insurance, I will say that I strongly doubt that any one big voluntary plan for everyone everywhere is going to cut it. What I want to see is a thousand mutual aid societies blooming, and a thousand different approaches to the problem — not for there to be some one network that everyone signs onto, but rather that every one have some network that she individually can sign on to.


The point is that while theoretically libertarians decide these things on individualist principle, in practice the judgment calls on policy options get made according to conservative and patriarchal priorities. This doesn’t have to be the case, but is.

Maybe so, but I may I suggest that MBH’s position on government health care reform is, well, idiosyncratic among self-identified libertarians? And so that the argumentative moves he makes may not be indicative of how most of us would handle the issue?

Re: Bartlett’s Quotation


As long as we’re playing “add to the hypo”, I’ll grant your addition, and add this: Those that the woman struck were standing by silently, watching the “pantsing” and doing nothing to assist. In some cases, they actively cheered on the instigator.

Is it now a tougher call as to piling on the woman?

You might think it’s a tougher call, insofar as bystanders have some kind of ethical obligation to intervene when they see someone being physically assaulted in front of them (and when the potential danger involved in intervening is such that not intervening would be cowardice or complicity).

But the problem, then, is that I think you’ve now extended the thought experiment to the point where it has lost contact with the situation it’s supposed to be analogous to. If you believe that everybody reading a comment thread, or writing on it, or whatever level of involvement is supposed to be, has the same sort of ethical obligation to come in to rescue Keith from uncalled-for insults or strawman presentations of his views, then you might find it odd that many people didn’t get involved into Keith started slinging insults based on gender identity or started pulling out the most colorful sorts of schoolyard taunts in order to bash whole groups of people based on their sexuality and suggest, at length, in a stand-alone essay that has nothing directly to do with any kind of personal back-and-forth with Aster, that those groups of people (identified with the crudest sorts of schoolyard taunts) be run out of the anarchist movement.

But what makes you think that there is such an obligation to intervene in such a case?

We are not, after all, talking about a physical assault; we’re talking about people calling each other names over the Internet. Is there some reason why I should feel compelled to put myself in the middle as long as the two parties are only engaged in bagging on each other in an open comment thread?

If you’re going to charge a double-standard, you need a case in which the things being evaluated differently are actually the same. But they’re not the same, and there are obvious reasons why people who do not care to intervene in the purely personal part of the sniping that both Aster and Keith engaged in, and who have no real reason to, might nevertheless have good reasons to get involved once Keith starts slinging the fag-bashing, not to mention the standalone essay-length extended arguments for running large groups of people out of the movement based on their sexuality, gender identity, or racial or sexual politics. (Which was studded with vile insults against all kinds of people, sure, but which was primarily objectionable because of the substantive position taken in it, not because of the tone or diction.)

Re: Bartlett’s Quotation


And yes, I agree Keith overstepped the bounds with his counter. But again, I’ll ask you whether you think you’d be piling onto (and making offhanded jokes and jibes about) a woman who over-reacted to being ‘pantsed’ in public by permanently crippling her attacker.

While we’re playing the analogy game, I wonder what you would say about a woman who overreacted to being “pantsed” in public by grabbing a crowbar and beating the shit out of not only her attacker, but also everyone else in the room, regardless of whether or not they had ever done anything to her?

I ask because that’s actually more like the situation that’s going on when Keith replies to Aster calling him names by going on a tirade about “cock-ringed queers,” “pissed-off, man-hating, dykes with an excess of body hair,” “homosexualists” (?), and “persons of one or another surgically altered ‘gender identity,'” inter alia, and generally a bunch of other people who aren’t Aster.

This is not, actually, a two-person feud in which a bunch of bystanders have just inexplicably (or all-too-explicably, or whatever) picked on one side — the side you consider to have been the instigator — to pile on against. What happened was that Aster repeatedly insulted Keith and has in the past attributed positions to him that he claims not to hold, based on insufficient evidence; Keith in response has not only returned the insults; he has also, in the process, launched the most vicious sorts of broadsides against all sorts of people who have absolutely nothing to do with the purely personal aspects of the feud.

Perhaps this might just help explain why a number of folks who have mostly opted out of trying to intervene in the interpersonal sniping, have had something to say about Keith’s recent sorties of rhetorical saturation-bombing.

I don’t need to investigate or comment on the history of the fight in order to justify getting pissed off at Keith for punching me in the face, even if somebody other than Keith started the fight that got him swinging. If he doesn’t want to get piled on, he should start by fighting in a way that doesn’t involve bashing a lot of people other than his putative target.

Re: Taking sides on the right to be a complete jackass

That said, in my experience the groups he identifies (the homosexual lobby, inter alia) are seldom remotely interested in genuine liberty: they are interested in obtaining a seat at the table of power, not in dismantling the table altogether. … You never hear GLBT types demanding that government reduce funding for their pet projects: quite the opposite.

Look, dude, I’m an out bisexual man. I’m also an anarchist. I’m one of those “GLBT types” and I’ve spent the past seven years or so of my life not just calling for defunding this or that project, but in fact calling for, and working for, the immediate, complete and permanent abolition of the State as such. I happen to know a lot of other Gs and Ls and Bs and Ts who have been and are doing the same.

This conversation is not about “the homosexual lobby,” whatever the hell that is. It’s about me and my friends. The folks that Preston wants “purged” when he talks about holding “a revolution within anarchism itself.” This isn’t about attempts to reach out to statist outfits like Human Rights Campaign (who cares?); it’s about Keith’s explicit intention to run us — that is, people who are anarchists and are also vocal gay liberationists — out of the movement, apparently in the name of better recruiting among angry young white cis straight non-immigrant males. (Not to mention his similar suggestions for running out feminists, vocal anti-racists, trans folks, pissed-off, man-hating, dykes with an excess of body hair [sic! he says that like it’s supposed to be a bad thing…], people who oppose government immigration checkpoints and “papers-please” ID monitoring, etc.).

I read Mr Preston’s entire piece (or ’screed’ or ‘rant’ if you want to be pejorative) and there was one single sentence in a sea of reasoned argument (the whole ‘cock ring’ bit) upon which people have seized as evidence of some deeper ideological shortcoming.

Oh, well, we can discuss more than just that one pull-quote, if you want.

For instance, how about the several paragraphs that he devotes to arguing that anarchists, of all people, ought to be calling for the expansion of government checkpoints, documentation requirements, and prohibitions against immigrant workers? I don’t know about you, but I’d say that there’s some ideological shortcoming going on when a professed anti-statist goes around arguing for the escalation of police state tactics by government border thugs (because, hey, a majority of government-approved voters want it! well, hell, sign me up!).

Re: Keith Preston Hopefully Not Victorious


You’re being an asshole, and you really ought to stop.

Whether or not you think that Anonymous is in fact Aster, and whether or not you think that Anonymous or Aster has treated you unfairly, in this discussion or in other discussions, that’s absolutely no reason to respond with polemical distortions of her views, or with down-and-dirty attacks of your own. You ought to be embarassed at having made such thuggish appeals to tooth-for-a-tooth rhetorical retribution (“like I told you before, if you want to throw rocks at me, I’m going to hit back and hit hard”). If you think that you’ve been strawmanned or unfairly attacked or otherwise wronged in this conversation, I can’t see why you think it’s a good idea to reply by getting just as nasty as you wanna be yourself — as, for example, with your (really vile) attempts to exploit common prejudice against transgender people in order to score some kind of rhetorical point (as if there were anything wrong with being trans or otherwise challenging patriarchally-correct notions of gender identity; as if there were anything wrong with sex reassignment surgery; as if any of this had a damned thing to do with anything in the discussion about libertarian alliances and strategy).

If you have something worth saying about libertarian alliances and strategy (and, for the record, I think what you have to say combines some genuine insights — e.g. about the importance of populism, the importance of secessionist decentralism as way to work across traditional Culture War front lines, the classism that goes into certain Progressive attitudes about poor, rural, Southern, or otherwise marginalized white folks, etc. — with a lot that is really wrongheaded), then you can say it without resorting to this kind of garbage.

And I will hopefully have more to say about your essay later, both on some substantive points and some terminological points. (I think that you have misunderstood the meaning of the term “thick libertarianism”; “thick libertarianism” is not identical with left-libertarianism, and you’ll find thick conceptions of libertarianism not only among left-libertarians, but also among paleolibertarians, orthodox Objectivists, and, while we’re at it, your own expressed views about pluralism, and Anonymous’s expressed views, too; what we differ over is not thickness, but rather on the particular commitments that are to be bundled together with non-aggression.) But I’ll probably come around to a real response in a venue other than this already-lengthy comments thread.

Nick Manley: Am I going to throw acid in the face of a woman who chooses to stay at home and raise her children? No.

Other Nick: What about “ridiculing” or “socially ostracizing” her “patriarchal” husband?

Well, what about it?

If her husband really is acting in a domineering or patriarchal way, then why shouldn’t he be ridiculed or socially ostracized for it? He’s an asshole. Those of us who think that domineering behavior and patriarchal attitudes are ridiculous, foolish, or vicious have every right, and every reason, to withdraw our social support from, or to make fun of, people who engage in them.

Of course, I also think it would be silly to presume that you can just look at the fact that a woman chooses to spend her time on caring for children in her home and somehow automatically infer from that that it’s the result of domineering behavior or patriarchal attitudes on the part of her husband. People make all kinds of choices and there’s nothing in feminism which requires you to rag on heterosexually married women who are, for reasons of their own, working at childcare rather than in a capitalist workplace. Or on their husbands.

Other Nick: My main beef with the kind of thick libertarianism Johnson is advocating is that it seems not to respect the right of a person to voluntarily enter an inegalitarian/hierarchical lifestyle.

How so? You have the right to do whatever you please, an it coerce none. And I have the right to criticize your choices, if I think they are ill-considered, foolish, vicious, or otherwise harmful.

There may be cases where it is rude to do so; there may also be cases where it is morally wrong. (There is such a thing as a virtue of tolerance, and of minding your own business. If you think that libertarians have good reasons, qua libertarians, to cultivate those virtues, even in cases where intolerance or busybodying would have been expressed through nonviolent means like ostracism or ridicule, well, then what you’re advocating is in fact a form of thick libertarianism. A thin conception of libertarianism would have nothing to say about whether people should be tolerant or intolerant, as long as they’re non-aggressive.) But be that as it may, I can’t see that you’ve made any case for saying that it is never the right thing to do. If a husband is (nonviolently) being an asshole to his wife, and she (consensually) stays in the marriage, because she thinks his assholish behavior is basically O.K., or even that it’s the right way for him to treat her, then I certainly see no reason why I have some kind of obligation to continue associating with that asshole or providing social support to him or to hold off on calling him an asshole in conversation.

Other Nick: I’m all for battling ideas with ideas but I draw the line at using means such as “ridicule” and “social ostracism” to win the battle. . . . I don’t think it is, but that’s beside the point. The behaviors I described are a form of coercion in my opinion and therefore shouldn’t be justified even if it can be argued or proven that they serve libertarian ends.

Nick, are you seriously suggesting that ridicule and social ostracism are “a form of coercion”? If so, when you say “coercion” do you mean what libertarians normally mean by it (i.e., an invasion of the target’s liberty rights), or do you mean something else?

If you seriously mean to suggest that making fun of somebody in words or pictures, or withdrawing your social support from them (by refusing to trade with them, refusing to talk to them at parties, whatever) is unjustified because it’s somehow a violation of the target’s liberty rights, then I think this is absurd, and that it’s not recognizable as any form of libertarianism that I’m aware of, since it would require a claim to the effect that nonviolent speech or expression is invading the target’s liberty rights, or that people have a positive obligation to provide social support to people who they do not want to associate with. (And I’m supposed to be the p.c. fascist here?)

I hope that I’ve misunderstood your view. But if I have, then I do need some help in figuring out what it is. Do you think that ridicule or ostracism are not literally violations of the targets rights, but that they are objectionable on some other grounds? If so, what are those grounds, and why do they rule out any and all use of ridicule or social ostracism, just as such, as legitimate nonviolent means for libertarians to achieve their social or cultural goals?

Nick: Such an alliance would, for example, criticize mainstream feminism (or more precisely what Christina Hoff Sommers calls “gender feminism”), male chauvinism, racial supremacists, race hustlers, etc. In contrast, it would support equity feminism, men’s rights groups, “equal opportunity” anti-racism, etc.

May I suggest that if your understanding of the different factions within the feminist movement depends significantly on Christina Hoff Sommers’s worthless, more or less purely polemical distinction between “gender feminism” and “equity feminism,” then you probably need to do some more work learning about the history, theory, and practice of the feminist movement before you try to figure out whether to support or to criticize it. (For a discussion of some of what’s wrong with Sommers’s discussion of “gender” and “equity” feminism, see for example my comments about this alleged distinction over at feministe.)

Nick Manley: The French Revolution and 1968 were both complicated affairs. I don’t think there were no positive aspects to them though.

Well. I don’t think Keith was claiming that there were no positive aspects to them. I think he was claiming that the criteria that are being used to criticize his strategic views are not being consistently applied.

Re: Progress of the Revolution

Characterizing something as a “rant” may seem like a handy rhetorical way of waving it off without actually engaging with its argumentative structure. But that’s really uncharitable and not especially productive of reasoned discussion.

I think that LRC is more of a mixed bag than Aster does (not because I disagree with her particularly about the criticisms she lodges against some of the content and authors that appear there, but rather because I think that it’s important to keep in mind how many different authors post there, and that they are not all marching in lockstep, either in general or on the issues Aster has in mind). But be that as it may, the kind of responses she’s gotten from Tracy Saboe and Anon73 are just silly.

If the high readership ranking of LRC is being specifically mentioned as a sign of progress, and one believes that the high readership ranking of LRC is not a sign of progress, then it makes sense to reply with criticism specific to LRC, in order to show that its being widely read is not as good a development as was originally suggested. Replying to that criticism with “If you don’t like it, go start your own” is just a non sequitur. Aster was giving counter-evidence in reply to a particular claim that had already been made; this is just a change of subject.

Replying to her argument with “at least they’re attacking the State,” on the other hand, is like a cartoon of thoughtless “shoulder-to-shoulder” Popular Front rhetoric. At least Stalin was fighting Hitler. (And vice versa.) But, really, so what?

If you think that Aster’s comments are unfair to LRC or, you can try replying to that, but these kind of remarks, passed off as replies, don’t really even rise to the level of successfully replying.

Re: Farewell LP


Since I am not sure whether I would consider you male or female, this seems appropriate. . . . And, even if you choose to fill us in on that, I’m still not sure which I would consider you to be.


Who the fuck cares whether you would deign to consider Aster male or female? I can’t see how it’s any business of yours to say one way or the other. What does it matter to you?

What does matter, on the other hand, is what Aster considers herself–at least, that is, if you want to try to have a conversation with her according to basic norms of civilized politeness.

You used some language which, whatever your intent may have been, inadvertently caused her grief; she earnestly and straightforwardly explained the reasons why, and now, rather than doing something as simple and decent as apologizing for your inadvertent fuck-up, you’ve decided to get defensive about it, and back up the defensiveness with being a dick to her about it, first by repeating the same term you used earlier, and then by adding your wildly irrelevant and pointlessly presumptuous speculations on whether or not you personally would consider her female (as if anyone asked you; as if anyone other than you cares what you think about it). You could not possibly have been more rude if you were to address a black 16 year old as “boy,” and, when he asked you to choose another way to address him, you called him “boy” again and then went on to ramble about how you wouldn’t know whether to consider a 16 year old a “boy” or a “young man” or something else again.

This kind of callous rudeness is completely unacceptable and I think you ought to apologize to Aster for it.

All libertarians I know (and all non-libertarians I know, for that matter) of course recognize that freedom does include the right to sever relations with one’s biological family, and that, in some unfortunate situations, this may be the wise thing to do.

You know, I see no reason to think that Aster’s comments about the “familialism” of mainstream Chinese culture were directed against a position that countenanced the right to sever relations with one’s biological family. As far as I can tell, there is good reason to believe that failing to countenance that right is part of what she was complaining about, and part of what Natasha was complaining about after her. Has it occurred to you that when she criticized “familialism,” she was criticizing something that she identifies with that word, not necessarily what you identify with that word?

If you want to change the subject to something else — like, say, the position that custody of children ought to default to biological parents in the absence of some compelling reason for a different arrangement (which I doubt Aster or Natasha disagrees with) or perhaps the position that, although children have a right to sever ties with their parents for whatever reason, morally speaking, they owe a (non-enforceable) duty of filial obedience and morally ought to sever ties only under extreme and unusual conditions (which I know that Aster and Natasha disagree with, but which is a distinct position from the one that began this conversation), then you should feel free to discuss that, instead. But you do owe it to your readers to make clear that you are changing the subject, and not to pretend as if you are responding to Aster’s original comments.

Furthermore, a society that rejects family ties as the basis of society, as Western societies increasingly have, is unlikely to be libertarian. If people cannot rely on their family in difficult times, they are likely to expect the government to step in as a substitute. It is no coincidence that unmarried mothers, for example, tend to be supporters of big government.

If people cannot rely on their family in difficult times, then they are likely to rely on somebody other than their family. That need not be the government, and historically, there have been many institutions developed that provide mutual aid and support outside of family ties. (For example, the many workers’ societies and ethnic mutual aid societies that have always flourished in working-class immigrant communities, where, as a matter of necessity, working folks couldn’t count on support from their mostly overseas families.)

If you want to ask why it is in this country, today, that there is so much less of a mutual aid infrastructure in place than there has been in times place, and why there is so little institutionalized support for, say, single mothers, outside of the government welfare and education bureaucracies, well, that’s an interesting question to ask. But once you start asking it, you may find that it complicates your picture of the real dynamics here, and it becomes a lot harder to scapegoat single mothers for welfare statism.

Families are the one natural, primordial human institution

This is either vacuous or counterhistorical nonsense, depending on what you mean by “families.” If “families” means “nuclear families,” then it’s certainly not true that human societies are “naturally,” or always, arranged around those. If “families” means “extended family,” the claim is vacuous; ties of kinship are extremely variable across human societies, in terms of who counts as family, how important distant family relationships are (as well as how comparatively important ties of kinship by blood and by marriage are, etc.), and there is no fixed cross-cultural definition of just what the hell an extended family is. In late 18th century America it was extremely common for young children and adolescents to be packed off for years to live with very distant relations or family friends, in ways that would be unthinkable in contemporary American “nuclear families.” Who counts as family, how much certain kinds of family ties matter, etc. are all culturally variable phenomena which change a lot over time and space, and the particular form of family ties that are now common in bourgeois American families are a very late development, which has nothing in particular to do with nature and everything to do with American culture and American standards of living.

Finally, as a strategic approach for the libertarian movement, condemnation of a familial orientation is simply disastrous. . . . most human beings, if forced to choose between a political ideology and their family will — thank Heavens! — choose their family. . . . Of course, in the final analysis, it is all moot, because Asia still generally adheres to traditional human values, and Asia will triumph, as much as that pains Aster.

I have no idea what logical point all this guff is supposed to establish. Even if you’re right, the popularity or the material success of an ideology has no bearing on its truth or falsity.

I mean, look, I’m already throwing in for an ideology that proclaims a universal and unconditional right to shoot up heroin and bid for private surface-to-air missiles on eBay, while you engage in consensual sodomy, for (tax-free) money, with an undocumented immigrant while you the two of you cross back and forth over the U.S.-Mexico border. Do you seriously think someone who goes in for that sort of thing ought to be swayed by complaints that their beliefs about family ties might not go over well at the next Homeowners’ Association meeting?