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Self in Society Roundup 13

Libertarianism debated, The Individualists reviewed, Twitter vs. Notes, child labor, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
April 14, 2023; ported here on May 30, 2023

More on The Individualists

I hope you also caught my review of The Individualists, the book by Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi, as well as my podcast episode with Zwolinski.

Jacob Grier also out a nice review of the book. He opens:

Libertarianism has always been an eccentric ideology. It has not always been an embarrassing one. In the not-too-distant past, to call oneself a libertarian might bring to mind figures such as Nobel Prize-winning economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek or philosopher novelist Ayn Rand. As recently as 2016, the Libertarian Party could boast a presidential ticket of two respected former governors who delivered its best national electoral performance. (Only 3.3% of the vote, but still.) Alas, identifying as a libertarian in 2023 invites less savory associations. One may be tempted to tack on an immediate qualifier: not that kind of libertarian.

The meaning of "that kind of libertarian" is evident to anyone who's spent time on Twitter. These are the trollish edgelords who care more about owning the libs than persuading the persuadable. They hate the woke Left. They don't seem to mind white supremacists. They stripped a statement decrying bigotry as "irrational and repugnant" from the Libertarian Party platform. The so-called Mises Caucus, which took over the party last spring, has been trashing the good name of libertarianism ever since, destroying the movement's reputation one idiotic tweet at a time.

Matt McManus also reviewed the book for Jacobin. Here's part of what he writes:

In their new book . . .philosophers Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi showcase the many historic sides of the libertarian movement. This includes lengthy and candid discussions of "paleolibertarian" figures like the late Murray Rothbard (1926–1995) and Lew Rockwell (founder and head of the Mises Institute), whose blend of hyper-capitalist economics and hard-right social conservatism has frequently descended into open racism and homophobia.

It would be pleasant if contemporary libertarians made some effort not to be, and not to tolerate within their ranks, embodiments of the worst stereotypes the socialists care to throw at them. Of course, McManus does not seriously grapple with libertarianism in its strongest forms. And he takes "inequality" per se as an unqualified bad, without distinguishing legal and moral equality from equality of resources, when resources can be justly or unjustly acquired. Still, it's a good review. Elsewhere, Reason's Nick Gillespie interviews Zwolinski and Tomasi. Super interesting intro to the book and the authors' backgrounds.

Twitter Update

Last time I wrote about how Twitter was preventing likes and retweets of posts with Substack links. By late Saturday, April 8, Twitter was again allowing these. The main thing I learned from all this is that Twitter's current management team will act capriciously in ways that irritate and punish users. I'm still using Twitter, at least for now, but I'm using it less, and any "brand loyalty" I had is gone.

What about Notes? Here's something I posted there:

Here, sadly, is my take on Notes so far. People not directly affected by Twitter's treatment of Substack are not rushing to Notes. And, given how tightly Notes is tied to Substack publications, and the difficulty of using Notes as a stand-alone, I don't see it as taking over and gaining the network advantages that Twitter has. Of course, if that's not what you want from Notes, maybe you love how it's going.

Child Labor

A Twitter comment about McDonald's and other fast-food restaurants "exploiting children for cheap labor" (the sign shows $15 per hour pay!) generated quite a lot of commentary to the effect that working is good for a lot of kids. And, obviously, in the context of limited hours and safe workplaces, it can be.

Image of a Tweet claiming that McDonald's is exploiting children for cheap labor.

Meanwhile, McDonald's is experimenting with more-automated restaurants; look, ma, no more "exploitation"! (Or at least less.)

Here's me at age 7 (!) being "exploited" by my grandfather, when I worked as a "box boy" on the peach line in Palisade. As a child I also got to shovel horse shit, stack hay, split stumps, drive tractor, and plant peach trees. These are some of my best memories, and I learned a lot doing that work.

Old newspaper photo showing Ari Armstrong at age 7 working as a box boy in a peach packing facility.

Quick Takes

Religion: They're back to nailing people (volunteers!) to crosses in the Philippines. But they're not quite as rough about it as the Romans were, and the people survive to be crucified another day. Via Marginal Revolution.

Hostile Workplace: In my comments on the film She Said, I suggested that I'm open both to (government-facilitated) private lawsuits and (direct) government action when it comes to serious cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. What about racist and sexist comments more broadly? Bryan Caplan says government could never ban such speech directly, yet it has in effect banned it in the workplace by facilitating tort actions in response to such speech. (He hyperbolically likens this practice to hiring a hit man.) Let us concede the line has been drawn too tightly to allow wasteful and even predatory lawsuits. At some point, government necessarily sets the boundaries of contract law. I think a good case can be made that government should declare workplace harassment a sort of breach of employment contract, subject to damages. But I worry about courts exaggerating the damages. And "we" should push for free labor markets in which people more easily can quit bad jobs and seek out better jobs.

Film: On the surface the film Jerry & Marge Go Large is about a man who finds a flaw in a particular lottery game that allows him to systematically win every few weeks. More deeply, the film is about reconstructing one's life after retirement, reconnecting with one's spouse, and bringing people together. In our era of loneliness, depression, and polarization, this is a film about community and friendship. I enjoyed the film much more than I expected. Bryan Cranston in the lead is spectacular.

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