links for 2009-05-04
Paul Krugman Takes Allan Meltzer to School

Will Wilkinson on Peter Thiel

He doesn't quite get it, I think. He treats Peter Theil as suffering from a generic libertarian democraphobia--rather than the more specific Fear of an Ovarian Planet.

Will Wilkinson:

Libertarian Democraphobia: Which brings us to Thiel’s boneheaded quip about women’s suffrage. Extending the franchise to women is, in my estimation, one of the great triumphs... the rejection of a shameful tradition of paternalism.... I cannot see how anyone who accepts basic liberal assumptions about freedom and equality can see the establishment of equal political rights as anything but an unequivocal good... unless he rejects the legitimacy of politics in principle. I think this is were Thiel was coming from.

But if politics is in-principle illegitimate, it was illegitimate before women got the vote, so why bring it up? By bringing it up as a reason why democratic progress is hopeless, Thiel does make it sound like he thinks the problem’s not democratic politics per se, but democratic politics without good prospect of producing the right answer...

But it is not democratic politics as corrupted by the votes of the unwashed, the illiterate, the media-dazzled, or the organized and interested that Thiel denounces, it is democratic politics as corrupted by Persons with Ovaries--plus, don't forget, "welfare recipients." There are and always have been lots of sources of "false consciousness" in politics. But few indeed are those who have focused on estrogen levels as a cause.

Will goes on:

[L]iberalism starts from the recognition that free and equal people don’t agree about the right answer but need to find a way to live together anyway.... Thiel’s comment seemed to imply that political recognition of the fundamental equality of persons is not only tangential to the right answer, but might even get in the way of arriving at it, which is just screwed up.

If establishing equal rights to political participation in fact created an impediment to the political success of libertarianish ideas, maybe there are some very good reasons for that.... [I]f libertarian-style politics seems especially unnatractive to members of formerly oppressed and disenfranchised groups, maybe that’s because... [they] suspect that a politics that focuses relentlessly on the inviolability of property... is a politics meant to protect those who reap the gains of a still-rigged and unjust system.

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