June 13, 2005

The Philosophy of Liberty

I really enjoy this flash animation from the International Society for Individual Liberty. The music might throw some people off but I find the arguments very well reasoned, very corrdinated, very well ordered and creatively animated. It's an excellent way to explain the fundamental philosophical precepts of libertarianism.

You might not be able to tell by modern political discourse, but classical political rhetoric hinged on philosophical precepts. Are people good or bad? Is knowledge benign, malignant or neutral? Is there free will, pre-destination or instinct and to what degree are we responsible for our actions? Do groups or objects have real moral value or only individuals? Who is qualified to make what types of decision and why? And so forth.

A lot of people don't really follow the philosophical connections to politics (as observed in journalistic political coverage, which resembles a horse race and a succession of pandering to interest groups, rather than an expression of moral, philosophical or social values). That's too bad, because only when we identify the basic principles we believe in can we set about forming a truly ethical response to a given situation.

I like the flash at ISIL because it does exactly that - set up all the philosophical precepts about life, liberty and property, then explain the necessary ground rules that follow from those beliefs. It's syllogistic; if you accept the precepts then you must accept the ensuing ground rules.

I have only a couple additions I'd mention on top of the video, though for reasons of display it might not be practical to include them. The first is that it's often useful to point out that, while people are not always perfect at managing their own lives, it's insulting to think that other people ought to run their lives for them or that they'd do a better job (in addition to unethical to allow it). I would also say that the problems around the world part of the flash is correct but only in part. It's true that many dictators and world problems start when people encourage or allow the bad actions of their leaders, but many problems come from dictators who were not encouraged by the people. I might add to the animation something about the legitimacy of defending against these aggressors, just as earlier in the video aggressors are defended against mutually. It almost sounds like a "you asked for it; it's your fault" sort of thing, though they didn't actually say that. Some clarification might help show the distinctions.

It's an entertaining little video and a brief but helpful introduction to the principles of liberty.

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