Posts tagged Wendy McElroy

Re: Fuck. Yes. is run by Roderick, not by me.

For what it’s worth, I certainly agree that our essay should not be the only thing cited in a discussion of libertarian feminism.

The “Libertarian Feminism” essay was not written in ignorance of ALF or the work that y’all have done. It would not be too much to say that if it weren’t for ALF I probably never would have become a libertarian — it was specifically a couple of essays by you, Sharon, and some others by Joan Kennedy Taylor, which really opened me up to the possibilities of radical individualism, and taught me my first and most important lessons on libertarian and market anarchist approaches to social justice. (It’s the libertarian part that I needed convincing on. As a man I am come to feminism with a certain distance that women don’t have — but I’m not exactly writing from the outside looking in, either. While I’ve seen my share of ivory towers, I am not a professional academic, and I actually came to libertarian thought by way of years of prior work within local feminist groups, GLBT groups, and anti-rape/anti-battery activism — work which started for some pretty heavy personal as well as political reasons — and which eventually lead to anarcha-feminist organizing efforts, which lead…..)

It is true that men writing critical assessments of women’s work, including (especially?) in the feminist movement, are necessarily in a tricky position, and we are prone to all kinds of dumb moves and bad faith. No doubt in that essay and elsewhere I’ve neglected a lot that oughtn’t have been neglected and said things that are off-kilter or mistaken. But I don’t think it’s fair to infer from a failure to talk about something in the essay that we are oblivious, or don’t think that it’s important; lots of things we wanted to talk about, we didn’t get the chance to. I don’t think we claimed that no 20th/21st century libertarian feminists ever drew a connection between patriarchy and statism, or that Wendy McElroy is the only voice of “libertarian feminism” out there. Certainly the discussion (in section 2) of a number of common libertarian errors about feminism wasn’t intended to suggest that there aren’t any libertarian feminists who have pointed out and corrected those errors. If what we wrote, or what we neglected to write, does suggest that, then that’s absolutely a mistake, and I’ll publicly retract it.

For whatever it’s worth, in the essay we do allude to ALF and discuss an article by Joan Kennedy Taylor which appeared in the ALF News — but unfortunately, the format of the paper being what it is, we spend much more time (including in that section) talking about the points on which we disagree rather than the points where we agree. Similarly, we hardly canvass the whole range (as if we could!) of non-libertarian radical feminist thought (we only deal at length with one major instance — Catharine MacKinnon’s discussion of formal consent under patriarchy — and briefly mention a handful of other figures); and we hardly talk about any concrete examples of antifeminist libertarians by name (Hans Hoppe is in there, I guess). All I can plead is that the essay was presented live and so subject to limitations of time and the audience’s attention, never intended to be a comprehensive overview of anything, only an elucidation of a few conceptual issues that we see as especially important in finding the most promising strands of thought and action — by doing some totally incomplete and regrettably selective engagements on a handful of points that might help bring those conceptual issues out as clearly as possible. It’s certainly not intended either to be the first or the last thing that anyone reads on the subject of libertarian feminism — if it’s of any use at all, it will only be as something read alongside a lot of other broader, deeper, and more comprehensive material (which absolutely includes a lot of the work by Sharon Presley and other women in ALF, and I’m sorry if anything we said or anything we left out ever suggested otherwise). If the essay has been taken as an attempt at a comprehensive statement rather than a brief attempt to engage in a much, much wider conversation, then I can only say that I’m sorry for that, and the bit about pointing back and onward to the foundational works in the feminist tradition is really seriously meant — and work like “Government is Women’s Enemy” is as foundational as anything else I could mention.

Re: Feminism and Libertarianism Again


First, I notice that you haven’t answered my question. I mentioned one specific case in which people who advocate a “thick” conception of libertarianism (including Howley, myself, Roderick Long, Wendy McElroy, Hans Hoppe, Chris Sciabarra, Ayn Rand, Benjamin Tucker, Herbert Spencer, and a lot of other people from many different wings of the mvement) often stress the importance of non-coercive cultural phenomena to libertarian politics: cases in which there are important causal preconditions for a flourishing free society. Here it seems that libertarians have strategic reasons for favoring some non-coercive cultural arrangements over other non-coercive cultural arrangements, even though neither arrangement involves an initiation of force against identifiable victims. Do you disagree? If so, why? Or do you agree, but think that strategic commitments are somehow unimportant for libertarians to consider? If so, why?

Second, rather than responding to this question, at all, you have simply repeated a set of completely unsupported definitional claims. I don’t know what expertise or authority you think you have that would justify these from-the-mountaintop declarations. It certainly has nothing to do with the history of the word “libertarian” (or the French “libertaire,” from which “libertarian” was derived). The word has meant all kinds of different things throughout its history: it was originally coined by Joseph Dejacque as a euphemism for anarchistic socialism (which is still the primary use of the term in Europe); it has been used as a general contrast term for “authoritarianism”; American free marketeers and Constitutionalists started using it as a replacement term for “classical liberal” in the mid-20th century; about a decade later, a few (e.g. Murray Rothbard, later on Walter Block) started using it to specifically describe an axiomatic ethico-political system deriving from the non-aggression principle. The last of these definitions is the only one that systematically excludes consideration of any social question other than those having to do with the legitimate use of force. Some other meanings of the term (e.g. the understanding of “libertarianism” as more or less synonymous with “classical liberalism”) tend to minimize but not do away with other considerations; others (e.g. the identification of libertarianism with anti-authoritarianism or anarchism specifically) tend to put quite a bit of attention on broader questions about the desirability of different non-coercive social structures. You can find out some of the history behind these kinds of debates from books like Chris Sciabarra’s Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical and Total Freedom; I already linked an article of my own (from FEE’s The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty) which discusses some of the philosophical aspects of the debate and mentions some of the history of debates within the movement along the way. Of course you’re under no obligation to agree with me on the matter (lots of libertarians don’t–Walter Block, for example, has recently written against “thick” conceptions of libertarianism) but the position is certainly out there, and has been out there for a good century and a half or so, and it’s a bit much for you to simply hand down unsupported declarations about the “definition” of libertarianism (as if there were a single uncontested definition!).

Third, you make the following specific claim about what Kery Howley has been doing in her posts on libertarianism and feminism: “her line of argument isn’t an attempt to characterize certain social pressure as immoral and to encourage libertarians to speak out against them (which is fine and I agree), rather she is simply trying to expand the definition of coercive force to fit her pet issues. It’s intellectual lazy at best, and dishonest at worst.”

As far as I can tell, this characterization of what Kerry has done in her posts is completely inaccurate. It’s an accurate description of the position Todd Seavey dishonestly attributed to her, but has nothing to do with what she says here, and nothing to do with what she says in “Libertarian Feminism versus Monarchist Anarchism,” in which she explicitly states that, while certain forms of misogyny may operate through “social pressure” rather than coercive force, “No thinking libertarian is only concerned with coercion; most of us worry just as much about conformity and passivity.” (That last sentence is, in fact, the only time in either post in which she mentions coercion at all — to deny that all of her concerns as a libertarian have to do with coercion.) For Seavey, and then you, to repeatedly claim that she is trying to describe purely verbal misogyny as “literally coercive” (Seavey) or “trying to expand the definition of coercive force to fit her pet issues” (you), when she states in so many words that her position is exactly the opposite, that she’s concerned with these so-called “pet issues” even though they do not involve the use of coercion — and then to have you, to crown all, accuse her of intellectual laziness or dishonesty on the basis of this up-is-down, black-is-white strawman of her position — is something that is utterly outrageous. I wish I could call it extraordinary, but in fact it is my experience that there is nothing extraordinary of feminists being treated with this kind of dismissive contempt and indifference as to basic accuracy about their stated positions.

Re: A Spontaneous Order: Women and the Invisible Fist

  • Jerry: “If she is wrong and mischaracterizes the causes, what does that say about her conclusions regarding the effects?”

Nothing at all. If Brownmiller advances a false theory of the form “X causes R” (N.B.: I’m not conceding that her theory about the causes of rape IS false; nor am I insisting that it’s true; my position is that it’s not salient to this discussion whether it’s false or true), and then advances another theory of the form “R causes P,” based on an independent argument that doesn’t refer back to the first theory, the falsity of the first theory tells you nothing at all about whether the second theory is true or false, and nothing at all about whether the theory well-grounded or ill-grounded. What will tell you something about the merits of the second theory is a consideration of the independent arguments that are given for it.

  • “F => F is True. F => T is True.”

If you mean the arrow here to express a material implication, that’s an accurate description of the truth-values of material implications with false antecedents. But what has any of this got to do with the comments you’re trying to respond to?

There is no argument that I made, or which Susan Brownmiller made, in which her theory about the causes of rape is the antecedent in a conditional of which her theory about the effects of rape is a consequent. The theory in which rape is the explanans is not part of the evidence given for the theory in which rape is the explanandum, so disputing the first doesn’t undermine any of the reasons given for believing the second.

Again, speaking generally, you seem to be awfully muddled about causal claims, implication, and the proper places in which to attack an argument. This discussion is about causal claims, and causal claims are not claims about material implication. (A causal claim of the form “P’s being true causes Q to be true” is not truth-functional at all, because causal claims, among other things, have to support counterfactuals.) Maybe you are running into problems here because you believe that if someone advances a theory of the form “X causes R,” and another theory of the form “R causes P,” the direction of causation and the common middle term somehow suggests that the first theory is somehow logically prior to, a premise for, the second theory, and so that the evidential basis for the second theory somehow must depend on the evidential basis for the first theory. If you do believe that, I don’t know what to say except that it’s a hopeless muddle of really distinct causal, logical, and epistemological relationships, and you need to try to more carefully distinguish claims about complex causal chains between events from claims about complex logical and evidentiary relationships between statements asserting the existence of simple causal chains between events.

If that’s not what you’re confused about, then you’ll have to state more clearly why exactly you think a discussion of Brownmiller’s theory about the causes of rape has any evidential bearing on her theory about the effects of rape, and also just what precisely the antecedent is supposed to be and what the consequent is supposed to be in the material conditionals you keep trying to use.

  • Jerry: “your post contains quotes from women that basically blame men for most violence in the world (MacKinnon’s quote especially)”

MacKinnon’s quote does not say anything at all about either what absolute quantity or what proportion of the violence in the world is committed by men rather than women. What she actually says is that men commit some violence against other men (she doesn’t say how much), and men commit some violence against women (she doesn’t say how much), and then she contrasts the different ways in which the one kind of violence and the other are committed. I’m sure she has views on that, and so do I, but those views aren’t expressed in the quote and they aren’t material to this discussion. Any claim about how far men are to blame for how much violence is a claim that you have projected into the quote, not something that was there to be found.

  • Jerry: “Your claim that you are not saying men are bad and that it is just the science that makes them that way . . .

I literally have no idea what this means. I have not advanced any theory at all about what either the causes of rape are, or what the moral status of men, either individually or collectively, may be. I also have no idea what you mean by “the science [making] them that way.” What science? What claim are you even referring to?

  • Jerry: “You and Brownmiller have done none of that accounting.”

I already told you that I’m not attempting to provide a comprehensive defense of Brownmiller’s claims against all possible objections; if you want that, you should read Brownmiller’s book. My aims for a mid-length blog post are quite different. As for Brownmiller, unless you have read her book (I mean the whole thing, not just the handful of quotations that I or somebody else has pulled for brief consideration), then you have literally no idea at all what she does or does not account for.

  • Jerry: “Ad hominem covers the kind of insult you used, which dismisses the argument by demeaning the target of the insult as someone that unfairly shouts and worse, shouts irrelevancies.

Jerry, characterizing your argument as irrelevant is, I repeat, not an argumentum ad hominem. It is not an argumentum of any kind, because it has no internal inferential structure. It’s an assertion about your argument, which happens to be the conclusion of an argument drawn from a distinct set of premises. You might find the characterization, or the wording in which it is expressed, insulting. But “statements which you find insulting” and “examples of argumentum ad hominem” are two distinct classes, and their members have different logical properties.

As for that argument from distinct premises, I provided several reasons in my comments for saying that your reply was largely irrelevant to the point you were supposedly replying to. Those reasons may be good reasons, and they may be bad reasons, but they are reasons which had specifically to do with the structure and direction of the argument itself, not with any of your personal characteristics or circumstances as the person advancing the argument. You cannot simply point at the conclusion of an argument, declare “I find that conclusion insulting!” and then write off the entire argument as an exercise in argumentum ad hominem. (Or rather, you can’t do that without proving that you don’t understand what the term “ad hominem” means.) Argumentum ad hominem hasn’t anything to do with your reaction to the conclusion; it has to do with the kind of premises that the argument appeals to.

  • Jerry: “‘Since kharris disagrees with you, and DRR tells you to stop, I must consider I have won the argument!!! ZOMG!'”

I didn’t say that I won an argument. I said that you were devoting a lot of energy to topics that weren’t on-topic for the discussion, weren’t responsive to the specific claims advanced in my post, and which a number of people have repeatedly said they’re not much interested in discussing at length with you.

  • Jerry: “Here is a transcript of a speech from Wendy McElroy. . . .

I’m not interested in your views on male victims of domestic violence, or the ERA, or on the debate between liberal and radical feminists, or your beef with contemporary feminism broadly. These issues have nothing to do with the proper interpretation of Susan Brownmiller’s theory about the systemic effects of stranger-rape.

Re: The Ron Paul Flap – Short Version


In that is it any more offensive or dangerous than a reverence for majoritarian democracy?

Maybe more offensive; probably not more dangerous. How offensive a particular view is, on the whole, depends on a lot of factors, not merely how dangerous it is to individual rights. Vices aren’t crimes, but they are vices, and sometimes a vicious attitude merits taking offense.

Nobody gets atwitter about advocacy of democracy, so why should racism be any more alarming?

I don’t know what counts as getting “atwitter” or what domain you’re quantifying over when you say “nobody.” Most libertarian writers that I know are fairly contemptuous of majoritarian democracy. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three libertarians whose criticism of Ron Paul (Micha Ghertner’s, Wendy McElroy’s, and Brad Spangler’s) has specifically revolved around how the campaign promotes the myth that freedom can come about through majoritarian democracy.

As for Long, as far as I know, his position is not that racism is somehow worse or more alarming than political majoritarianism. The claim is just that racism is objectionable from a libertarian standpoint, not that it’s more objectionable than something else.