What libertarianism and Darwinism have in common

Kristor writes:

It is interesting to me that you have characterized both libertarianism and Darwinism in exactly the same terms: “transparent fraud.” The simplest explanation is that you enjoy the phrase, and like applying it to doctrines you consider utterly bankrupt. I myself like to use “utterly bankrupt” or “not even wrong” in such cases. But I have a hunch that there may be more to it than that; there may be some formal analogy between libertarianism and Darwinism, that prompted the associative mechanisms in your brain to suggest the same term for both of them.

What do they both have in common? They both employ the notion that order can naturally precipitate out of a repeated, random process, without any guidance being added in. But both in fact presuppose a pre-existing population of organisms, each of which is a teleological agent guided by internal constraints. Thus the constraints upon the evolution either of the biosphere or of society are manifold. They arise from every participant therein, which, taken together, and coordinated via the transactions among those participants, guide the course of evolution.

Where did the organisms which constitute the evolving population get their internal constraints? Not from evolution; they had to have the constraints from the get-go, in order for the evolution of the population to get started. Both systems beg this question. Darwinism simply assumes the existence of a population of highly ordered, death-avoiding organisms; Libertarianism simply assumes the existence of a population of preponderantly righteous, prudent, wise men. But highly ordered, death-avoiding organisms are what Darwinism is supposed to explain; it can’t therefore invoke such organisms in its explanation of those same organisms. Likewise, a population of preponderantly righteous, prudent, wise men is a product of a healthy political economy; one can’t propose a system of political economy that is simply silent with respect to how such men are to be produced.

Libertarianism answers, “not by the State.” This is fine so far as it goes, but it is inadequate. If not by the State, then by whom? The family, the church, the guilds, business enterprises? And, then, who decides, and how, which men are prudent, righteous, and wise enough to have a say in the government, howsoever minimal its sway? With this question, we arrive at the realization that the State must have a say in determining who is qualified to be an authoritative participant in its affairs. Thus even though the raising up of wise men may be wholly in private hands, there is nevertheless an ineluctable nexus between the State and the social recognition of such men; the State has a role to play in picking them out, naming them as such, and investing them with the dignities and powers of their offices as leaders. And this means that the lawgiving authority of the State (however informal or primitive its apparatus) must be coeval with the society as such. Society entails authority, and therefore also implicitly relations of disparate power among citizens, including the legitimate power and authority to wield lethal force.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 21, 2010 02:58 PM | Send

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