venerdì, dicembre 27, 2013

Freedom isn't free

So I have an elementary degree of familiarity (can use a cab, order dinner and get myself to the hospital) in five languages; six if you count Spanish, which I hesitate to do since that's really just a big old cheat with the Italian, and yet I'd be a hell of a lot more comfortable if I suddenly woke up in darkest Spain tomorrow instead of darkest China, despite having buggered my brains out over Chinese for years. Anyways, out of all of them, English is the only one that uses the same adjective for "without cost" and "at liberty". It's not a linguistic group thing either; German has "costenlos" and "frei".

I'm sure there's some conclusion to be drawn there, about some sort of bizarrely culturally specific Anglo notion of the essence of liberty being that someone doesn't have a price tag attached, which either makes Anglo notions super-mercantile or super-anti-mercantile. Or maybe not. Maybe somebody reading knows some languages that aren't Chinese, French, Italian/Spanish, and German wherein there's a word like "free" that means both things and I'm just full of shit.

Christmas with the F-word's father drove me around the fucking bend.  I just keep ending up back here. Except more so. And I have to not talk about it with the F-word anymore because the F-word is angrier than I am, with reason, and I don't need to dump any more of my anger on to him. Although when his father closed the car door on my arm I did scream for a bit. Thank god we're back in Melbourne. 

99 commenti:

Lady ha detto...

bummer about Christmas. i love/hate that holiday.

thanks for making me realize how much i love the word "gratuit" in every sense.

although "libre" sometimes means "without cost" as well. "entrée libre", por exemplo.

i want to learn italian!

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I thought the 'entree libre' thing meant the shop wasn't a wholesaler and served the public as well as selling to retailers, not that there was an idea you'd usually have to pay to enter. I mean when a museum has a day when you don't have to pay for tickets, it's 'gratuit', isn't it?

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

There's definitely a peculiar conception of Liberty in the Anglo world...(some might call it the correct concept...only found these days in the Deepest South of what's known as the united states).

Can you imagine an Anglo grouping Liberty and Equality in the same list of demands? Of course not...pinko nonsense.

"Thank god we're back in Melbourne." I nearly chocked on my peanut butter cracker.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Anglos probably wouldn't make that grouping because of a peculiar belief we've got that being obsessed with money has made our societies into meritocracies that couldn't get more egalitarian without all the smart people going all Ayn Rand on us. Like they haven't almost everywhere thoughtful social aid has been available to allow social mobility.

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

You'll find no egomaniacal-Godless Rand here...and social mobility is overrated...especially if it requires centralized banking, protectionism and public works. The invasion, conquest and destruction of sovereign state....uuhmm sorry about that...I got a little carried away.

My point, of course, is that the two are incompatible...unless you have a heavily modified and qualified view of liberty. That's an Anglo view I think.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I reckon they're only an impossible combination if you have a heavily qualified view of equality, which is a stereotype I think carries some weight in all the cardinal directions of your imperialist construct of a country.

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

How can you promote equality and liberty at the same time?

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

I've got nothing but time (at least for the next hour or so..hopefully shorter)...for reasons known only to the people who couldn't even give buy us those silly pairs for Christmas (look everybody it's fruit...I haven't seen one of these since the rationing started)...I am stuck in the office until 5:00.

I have chosen you to suffer along with me.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Because equality is the sine qua non of a free society. A society can't be free if some people are freer than others because of circumstance rather than choice.

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

There's the qualifications I spoke of.

Because people are not born of equal intelligence, ability or disposition you cannot have equality of opportunity, chance or circumstances...except at the expense of someone else's Liberty.

This may be necessary or even good thing...that's not my argument. My point is the two are incompatible.

And for the cooo de gahhhhh...contrary is one of the words I must spell to prove I'm not a robot.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I only see your point if you both imagine society as a zero sum game and also imagine equality as a series of identical round holes waiting for differently shaped pegs. Which is a very American perspective - I think you'd need to leave at least some of the other Anglos out of that one.

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

My only perspective is that of the individual.

Are you saying you haven't put qualifiers on Liberty and Equality?

You say oblong holes I say qualifiers. Same difference...this isn't some nuanced hard to grasp argument. This is the argument that has shaped western civilization.

I don't live in America...I've never been to Oregon or Vermont. I live in The South with a very specific world view. People in Connecticut were like Martians to me (as were those in the Midwest...who have a different set of problems)...and I can assure you as a society they do not share my very simple understanding of Liberty....though I think they have your view of Equality.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Qualifiers - definitions - you do need something to make words more than just sounds. I know you think you're coming from a simpler place than I am. But there's no meaning I can intuit to a notion of individual liberty that is not reinforced by protections to that liberty all individuals can access equally. Unless you think of liberty as a state of mind rather than the possession of agency.

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

I'm back at "work"...

My understanding of Liberty is freedom from State coercion...specifically State coercion because...

1. The State has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

2. You can set the parameters of Liberty by enacting a set of negative restrictions on the State.

Because these restrictions apply to the State...their benefit is equally shared by all. That's an Equality I can get behind.

3. Individuals are free to enter into any kind of coercive relationship they like.

Of course, it's doubtful that you could get more than two people organized without out some form of coercion. I'm not an idealogue...I'm not against any form of government but, when equality moves from negative (this is what cannot be done to the individual) to positive (these things must be done for the individual)it's proportional corrosive to Liberty.

I don't think that's a really controversial or peculiar understanding....but, maybe it's a horrible organizing principal. Maybe everything should be centralized and the Sate empowered with its own positive agenda... maybe one group of people should be forced to give of their time, effort and risk to equal out another's circumstances.

I am confident that there is no magic ideology or economic spell that will fix the worlds woes. Wouldn't it be good if people were organized into organic, culturally cohesive bodies to sort it out for themselves.

I have absolutely nothing to do today but, exchange a pair of shoes for Martha...got the wrong size. NOthing!

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

You're speaking my anarcho-syndicalist language again, which makes you a pinko.

I think some of the ideology behind that whole "liberty, egality, fraternity" thing wasn't foreign to your notions of a organic, culturally cohesive body, and of course it was also a movement against a coercive state, and of course the results were laughable, or would have been if there wasn't so much human tragedy involved.

Because of its scale and nationalism the French Revolution couldn't but be in opposition to all those three nouns. And I'm not talking about all the artistocratic-head-cutting-off, I'm talking about the ridiculousness that is an idea of France as an organic, culturally cohesive entity and the force that must be used to maintain it.

France as an idea is even more empirical than the United States as an idea, and much more culturally oppressive. When it was ruled by a monarch at least there was no pretence to the contrary, unlike post-Revolution and unlike now.

Not to mention the degree to which post-Revolution France remained an overtly empirical power, right down to a slave trade and culture that made the Deep South look like the nicer bits of "Brave New World".

All that having been said . . . the problem wasn't that liberty in the sense of personal agency and equality in the sense of everybody having the same rights to exercise their personal agency are in opposition to each other. The problem is that a state like France, or the USA, is incapable of offering either (much less fraternity).

The states that do better are invariably much, much smaller, or are governed in highly independent federal units. Also, they're either fairly culturally homogenous (ex Nordic Europe) or go to great lengths to disassociate culture from the governance of the country (ex Singapore, and yes, Singaporeans enjoy a greater degree of freedom and equality than the French or people living in the States).

All of which is a long way to say, I don't really disagree with you even if I get confused when definitions of liberty go beyond being able to use one's personal agency.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I also suspect a big difference between our perspectives is that I see capitalist financial systems, independent of and probably surpassing government, as anti-libertarian instruments.

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

I don't know exactly what you mean by capitalist financial systems but, no I don't see any system being a bigger threat to liberty than the state. Actually I can't really think of financial system that isn't wedded to big hulking states.

Here... http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/01/critique-crypto-catholic-culture-pope-francis-may-saying.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=critique-crypto-catholic-culture-pope-francis-may-saying

Posted on The Imaginative Conservative last night...IC is a place that I feel very comfortable.

Then Lew Rockwell posted this by Kirkpatrick Sales yesterday morning...

http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/01/kirkpatrick-sale/devolution-dissolution-secession-separatism/

Smaller is always better.

If you don't want to end up on some NSA list by visiting Lew Rockwell...he explains that based on the historical record and today's most successful polities...South Carolina has the perfect size and population for a functioning republic.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I would say empirical nation states are one of several tools used by capitalist financial systems to tie the room together just the way they want it.

While I'm a libertarian myself in the sense of opposing the existence of empirical states, the basic problem with pure libertarianism is that the main consequence of the removal of the state would be its immediate replacement with rule paid for and directly representing capitalist actors, with or without the smokescreen of presenting itself as a representative government saving the population from chaos or invasion. . . there's a fair argument for that already having happened in much of the USA, or even for that being at least part of the basis of its creation as a state.

(BTW I understand that the notion of a "capitalist financial system" is a harder one to pin down than "goverment" or "nation state" and as a financial journalist I can assure you that's as it was intended by capitalist actors.)

Besides size and cultural homogeniety/harmony, the other thing the states whose citizens have a high degree of personal agency have in common is a willingness to exercise state power to protect their populations' ability to exercise agency from the excesses of capital manipulation.

If you want to be all Hobsbawmian about it, which I'm sure you don't, you could argue that the Confederate States of America was a manifestation of this willingness.

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

That's why I think Culture is so important. That's why the idea of government as an end is so appealing. If everybody has roughly the same view...on general issues...then government is a mere exercise. Of course...it's not quite that neat but, if matters that concerned my life we're being decided in Birmingham, Alabama. I could live with the results...even if I disagreed with them. I would know that the people making those decisions understood the world the way I did. In fact, I'd probably never crack another news site for the rest of my life.

I have a good buddy that, while he is a secessionist, he's become a pretty hardcore libertarian. I'm very sympathetic, even a fellow traveler I reckon but, for me, The South is what matters...in whatever form. A strong culture will fill the void...ideology is rigid provides a set of answers to problem that must be followed. Culture imprecise and can flexible...above all it's protective. Whatever form the threat may take.

The Confederacy was, neatly in light of our conversation, a direct reaction to the synthesis of big financial interest and government. I don't reflexively hate big business but, I don't have any love for it either.

Melbine ha detto...

Your father-in-law closed a car door on your arm? Jesus. What would Freud say to that?!

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

The F-word's father would give Freud a fucking field day the likes of which Freud hadn't seen since he was two nostrils deep in his cocaine research.

Brad maddox ha detto...
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