I was looking for an old OB post to link to at Aidwatchers, and either discovered or rediscovered a video my co-blogger Dain had highlighted that I hadn’t watched. The video of a self-described classical liberal who is critiquing the advocated institutions of “deliberative democracy” as exacerbating the false view of individualism they claim to decry. I was only vaguely familiar with deliberative democracy, sometimes as a target of mockery. Perhaps I shouldn’t hope for a very accurate depiction from a critic, but this did strike me as more informative than what I had heard before.
I’ve probably mentioned before that despite my personal rootless atomism, I have some sympathies for localist varieties of communitarianism (like that of Bill Kauffman) because other people like the tight-bonds of community. Versions of communitarianism which treat as a community the modern gargantuan nation-state many orders of magnitude bigger than Dunbar’s number seem absurd to me. The description in the video of various interest groups having their interests represented qua groups actually reminded me of the Catholic/fascist doctrine of “corporatism”.
I was surprised to hear that despite deliberativists love of “radical democracy”, they don’t seem to be all that keen on majoritarianism (or maybe they are, this changes later on). Mark Pennington (the guy in the video) describes Jurgen Habermas’ ideal being the “unforced power” of the better argument winning out, rather than depending on how many people initially support a position when coming into deliberation (unlike me, the deliberativists are not “come as you are” type folks). It strikes me that a Bayesian should view the number of adherents of an argument as some evidence for its correctness, which is basically the tack Hal Finney took when advocating for philosophical majoritarianism. The first political theorist associated with majoritarianism I can think of off the top of my head is Willmoore Kendall, who simply believed that someone must hold a sword and that he’d rather that someone be the majority than a minority. The deliberative democrats, like Freddie DeBoer, want not only for the masses to be treated well but have the power to ensure their demands are respected, a position a cynic can appreciate even if one believes the bullet-box can secure what the ballot-box cannot (I was trying to find a link to some progressives saying that theory of preserving freedom is nonsense, but I can’t).
I don’t know if Noam Chomsky has endorsed that view, but he has criticized corporate power as being “undemocratic” (with their hierarchy being precisely what Mencius Moldbug likes about them), and the brief NYU cafeteria student occupation described itself (while in the process of being dismantled) as running along democratic consensus lines.
Finally, in assorted links, Henry Farrell argued against Timothy B. Lee partly on the grounds that technological standards are enacted along the lines of Habermas not Hayek. Pennington’s discussion of confronting/challenging someone’s initial disposition rather than giving people what they want reminded me of William S. Lind’s video on critical theory (starting around 10:20).
UPDATE: Thanks to a different AidWatchers post I’ve been having a running conversation with David Ellerman. He has a number of writings on how the modern labor contract illegitimately transfers what is inalienable, just as in slavery (or Hobbesian sovereignty, and the only legitimate firms would be those where all workers are democratic owners and only “things” are transferred without implying legal responsibility/ownership of finished products. Again we see the theme of helping the disadvantaged obtain capacity rather than dependency.
UPDATE 2: The Enchantment of the Democratic Process has Arnold Kling arguing for Rothbardian disrespect of Kendallian democracy. I’ve expressed positive feelings for the rule of law before and I can agree that settling our disagreements democratically is preferable to doing so violently (and may be viewed as a substitute through measuring the number of supporters), but even if anarcho-capitalists and government is inevitable, I want it to be the very last resort before violence on any particular individual decision.