I Think That War Is Probably Quite Short…

They’re discussing the prospect of imminent Civil War over at Who Tends The Fires. Who will be the antagonists in this war? My friend Billy Beck writes:

The question of the day is whether that nation exists, now. I say that, if it does, then it exists only as one party to an irreconcilable division between individualists and collectivists. Try to understand that this is a metaphysical antagonism: there is nothing to “compromise” because the antagonism is bound up with two completely different assertions of the nature of reality, raised to the domain of politics over the matter of what human beings are.

Civil War between individualists and collectivists? One immediate problem that occurs to me is that there aren’t any individualists to speak of. To paraphrase Benjy Mouse:

“Quite clearly, if we’re sitting there in the blogosphere mentioning that there’s going to be war between the collectivists and the individualists , and then have to eventually admit that the number of individualists who will show up for it is forty-two, then I think that war is probably quite short.”

I don’t see that civil war is imminent at all, I see pressures continuing to build that might be released in any number of ways. I will find a way to advance my life or make one, but I certainly see no sense in going to war with the collectivists.

29 thoughts on “I Think That War Is Probably Quite Short…”

  1. I think you misread me slightly, John. My view is that it will kick off between Left and Right: between two groups of collectivists, overt and covert colectivists if you would.

    The secondary theme was that regardless of the spark and the ostensible sides, individualism and collectivism were the real chips on the table.

  2. lung: “lung will impose lungocracy on all disputing parties!”

    What the world needs now is PLUR sweet PLUR,
    It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of,
    What the world needs now is PLUR sweet PLUR,
    No, not just for some but for everyone…

  3. …individualism and collectivism were the real chips on the table.

    Let’s stipulate that that’s the case. So what? Virtually no one out there on the ‘net or in the world can actually come to grips with the consequences of “individualism”. Russell Madden, in Wanting Freedom:

    Tell an American that “to be free” means:

    No Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, no welfare, no guaranteed loans…

    No “public” schools…

    No “public” roads…

    No taxation…

    No national or state or city parks…

    No mandated recycling…

    No State-run airports and security…

    Yes. Inform the average American of what “freedom” means and he that he will have to live within its parameters forever and he will crawl into a fetal ball and weep in abject panic…

    Or click here and witness the “individualist” Kevin Baker go into full perceptual breakdown when confronted with the true meaning and implications of “individualism”. In those hundred-odd comments, he was presented this question, by me: “So, which is it that you want: collectivism, or individualism?” His response was: “I want a collective of people who respect the rights of individuals. That’s how the Founders set the system up.” In other words, he wants to eat his cake (“rights of individuals”), and then have it, too (“collective”). Not only are there precious few self-proclaimed individualists, the fact is that one whiff of reality will knock about 99% of them into one collectivist piss-pot or another.

    Get it? Even if the fake individualists won, all they’d do is set up another Constitution. And we can see how well that’s worked out, these past two centuries.

  4. Here’s a hint; predicting a civil war is not the same thing as advocating a civil war. Predicting a necessarily collectivist enterprise is not the same as advocating a necessarily collective enterprise. Once that minor distinction is understood, your artificial construct of amused irony kind of collapses, doesn’t it?

    Not quite. Whether it’s a value-free prediction or a call to arms is not the point. Is it that difficult for you to see why a civil war between a group of people who think they are collectivists and a group of people who think they are individualists is a contradiction in terms?

  5. Micha,

    “A little too consistent…”

    Sweet of you to say. I’ll have to use that.

    “…war — a necessarily collectivist enterprise.”

    Considering all the examples of voluntary professional armies I see no reason in principle why war is necessarily a collectivist enterprise.

  6. I know you didn’t, Kennedy. You are one of the few people I know who is consistent with his methodological individualism. A little too consistent, I might add. I’m just amusing myself at the irony of individualists who claim that the inevitable answer is war — a necessarily collectivist enterprise. Seems to me these be neocons in libertarian-clothing. An accurate description of the contemporary Objectivist movement, to boot.

  7. “Why should I contribute my money and labor and risk loss of life or limb for the sake of this individualist cause when I can just free-ride and hope others do the job for me?”

    I dunno man, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t ask you to.

  8. Ah, the irony. Let’s see these so-called individualists try to solve the countless collective-action problems that all wars necessarily entail, whether they are forty-two or four in number. Why should I contribute my money and labor and risk loss of life or limb for the sake of this individualist cause when I can just free-ride and hope others do the job for me? Further, doing so would be–gasp!–altruism. And we know what Saint Rand and her merry band of individualists would say about that, don’t we.

  9. Let’s see these so-called individualists try to solve the countless collective-action problems that all wars necessarily entail,…

    Don’t worry, Ghertner: they’ll solve their collective action problems just fine.

  10. I’m just amusing myself at the irony of individualists who claim that the inevitable answer is war — a necessarily collectivist enterprise. Seems to me these be neocons in libertarian-clothing

    …says the easily amused Micha Ghertner. Well, it’s all very well to amuse yourself, Ghertner, but it’s better to do it privately, and wash your hands afterwards.

    Here’s a hint; predicting a civil war is not the same thing as advocating a civil war. Predicting a necessarily collectivist enterprise is not the same as advocating a necessarily collective enterprise. Once that minor distinction is understood, your artificial construct of amused irony kind of collapses, doesn’t it?

    (You use the word “neocon” almost as loosely as those boneheads over at Lew’s place. Congradulations – you’ve won yourself a prestigious and collectable Civil War Chess Set.*)

    *Offer not valid when accepted.

  11. Let’s put it this way: if you don’t join ’em, they will beat you. Severely.

    One, Two, Three, Four – What the Hell are We (a collective of individualists, sublimating our own selfish interests for the sake of the group as a whole) Fighting For?

  12. I was only referring to the comment in question, where you did use the word “neocon”, and you used it almost as loosely as they do over at Confederate Lew’s. Possibly you’ve amused yourself similarly in other places – I wouldn’t know about that.

  13. This point is made even stronger when we consider what Rand had to say about selfishness vs. altruism. This is relevant when we consider that many of these people calling themselves individualists as opposed to collectivists and pushing for/predicting civil war/revolution share Rand’s views of selfishness and altruism.

    I should note, before one of you mentions it, that Rand did think wars and revolutions were worth fighting for, even while maintaining her views on selfishness and altruism. She was able to maintain this straddle by saying something wishy-washy about “principles”, as if this would sufficiently distract the reader from the fact that the soldier is sacrificing his life so that others can live better lives. This, of course, was not the first, and certainly not the last time Rand was inconsistent.

  14. “When people start calling for war, because it’s “Us against Them”, and this world just ain’t big enough for the both of us (it’s a clash of civilizations, you know), my neocon detectors flare up.

    That’s hardly a neocon invention, nor is it now at all unique to neocons.

    Gosh you’re new.

  15. (You use the word “neocon” almost as loosely as those boneheads over at Lew’s place. Congradulations – you’ve won yourself a prestigious and collectable Civil War Chess Set.*)

    Really? I’d be surprised if you can find another place, anywhere on the Internet, where I’ve used the word neocon, let alone used it as a controversial characterization. I dare you. I double dog dare you. It may be out there; I can’t remember every word I’ve ever written. But I doubt it.

    When people start calling for war, because it’s “Us against Them”, and this world just ain’t big enough for the both of us (it’s a clash of civilizations, you know), my neocon detectors flare up. Maybe I should get some ointment.

  16. Considering all the examples of voluntary professional armies I see no reason in principle why war is necessarily a collectivist enterprise.

    I’ve been meaning to write a post about this. Libertarians cheat by calling themselves individualists as opposed to collectivists. When pushed, they often reduce this distinction to coercion/voluntarism. If the essence of libertarianism is the absence of coercion, than we should describe ourselves as libertarians or voluntarists (as many do). However, if individualism means something apart from these other terms, then libertarians should be upfront about what they mean. Do libertarians have a problem participating in collective organizations (communes, labor unions, grocery co-ops, unemployment insurance organizations, charitable organizations, Churches, not-for-profit corporations, armies, etc.) that sublimate the interests of the individual for the sake of the group, so long as this participation is voluntary? Then is it not misleading to say that libertarianism is for individualism as opposed to collectivism?

    This point is made even stronger when we consider what Rand had to say about selfishness vs. altruism. This is relevant when we consider that many of these people calling themselves individualists as opposed to collectivists and pushing for/predicting civil war/revolution share Rand’s views of selfishness and altruism.

  17. “I’ve been meaning to write a post about this. Libertarians cheat by calling themselves individualists as opposed to collectivists. When pushed, they often reduce this distinction to coercion/voluntarism. If the essence of libertarianism is the absence of coercion, than we should describe ourselves as libertarians or voluntarists (as many do).”

    You’re simply conflating collectivism with collective action, but they’re not the same thing. Individualists can engage in voluntary collective action since the primacy of the individual is intact in voulntary action.

    “Do libertarians have a problem participating in collective organizations (communes, labor unions, grocery co-ops, unemployment insurance organizations, charitable organizations, Churches, not-for-profit corporations, armies, etc.) that sublimate the interests of the individual for the sake of the group, so long as this participation is voluntary”‘

    So long as they are voluntary the interests of the indivdual are perfectly intact.

    Collectivism posits the primacy of the group, it holds that society is entitled to dispose of you and yours as it sees fit. Individualism posits the primacy of the individual, it holds that individuals have no positive obligations but those they voluntarily agree to.

    Getting back to my point, there no reason why individualists can’t have private professional armies.

    “This point is made even stronger when we consider what Rand had to say about selfishness vs. altruism. This is relevant when we consider that many of these people calling themselves individualists as opposed to collectivists and pushing for/predicting civil war/revolution share Rand’s views of selfishness and altruism.”

    Are they doing it on No Treason, Micha?

    You write more about Rand on this site than any of our regular blogggers.

  18. Not quite. Whether it’s a value-free prediction or a call to arms is not the point. Is it that difficult for you to see why a civil war between a group of people who think they are collectivists and a group of people who think they are individualists is a contradiction in terms?

    Maybe it would be. So what? Do you think that would stop anybody from killing, if killing was what they really longed to do and had the opportunity of doing? Try looking up the history of the Spanish Civil War, just for starters. And do you think I put in that quote from Isaac Babel as a irrelevant bit of fantasy? You seem oddly disconnected from what people really are, Ghertner.

    And why do you seem to think I would regard any such conflict as anything but a tragic disaster, an unmitigated horror? Certainly it would be a disaster for the cause of liberty. I am not nearly as “value free” as you sometimes seem to be. I realize that “tragedy” is not a term that might resonate with you much, (having determined, somehow, that human beings are nothing but game-theory counters, or 8-track tape loops stuck in mannequins) but at least try to understand that’s not where I’m coming from.

    What a miserable fucking new world this is, whose light is dawning on us all.

    “… Just forget for a minute that you have spectacles on your nose and autumn in your heart.”
    – Isaac Babel, How It Was Done in Odessa

  19. “”And when reason is impotent, the only alternatives are surrender or conquest. Now, that’s where this is going. I don’t like it, but I am not one to evade reality. Only fools do that.”

    Now, does this sound to you like someone merely predicting the future? Or is he himself advocating what he believes to be the least-bad solution?”

    The former.

    “Many neocons say the same thing: war is always unpleasent, but necessary.”

    He didn’t say it was necessary, he said in some circumstances its the only alternative to surrender.

  20. You’re simply conflating collectivism with collective action, but they’re not the same thing. Individualists can engage in voluntary collective action since the primacy of the individual is intact in voulntary action.

    Again, if the collectivist/individualist distinction is identical to the coercion/voluntarism distinction, than libertarians have no need for the former. It merely serves to confuse people about where libertarians stand with regard to collective action. The reason why I bring Rand into the picture is because she brought something else to the collectivist/individualist distinction: the altruism/selfishness distinction. At least she has a reason for using those terms, since she means something above and beyond merely coercion vs. voluntarism.

  21. Sabotta,

    Go read Beck’s post again. Here’s his last few words:

    “And when reason is impotent, the only alternatives are surrender or conquest. Now, that’s where this is going. I don’t like it, but I am not one to evade reality. Only fools do that.”

    Now, does this sound to you like someone merely predicting the future? Or is he himself advocating what he believes to be the least-bad solution?

    Many neocons say the same thing: war is always unpleasent, but necessary.

    And after reading the other piece at Who Tends The Fires matching the “Right/Libertarian side of the Blogosphere” against the “Liberal Leftists” with whom there is no discussion, its pretty clear that these are the same lines the neocons and pro-war libertarians want to draw with regard to the Arab world and the West. It becomes all the more ridiculous when these lines are drawn accordinging to collectivism and individualism.

    One more thing. Just because I reject mysticism in favor of naturalism does not mean that tragedy doesn’t resonate with me. Must one believe in God or the Tooth fairy to feel empathy and compassion for one’s fellow man? I’m sure you’d like to think that mysticism is necessary, since naturalism scares you so much, but your wrong.

  22. The reason I often use the word individualism is that of the available alternatives it most succintly conveys the primacy of the individual.

    But as you’ve already admitted, its not the individual that’s important, but his consent. So long as he consents to submit to the will of the group, it is then the group that is important, not the individual.

    He didn’t say it was necessary, he said in some circumstances its the only alternative to surrender.

    And he is making a value judgement that war is preferable to the alternatives (surrender, compromising one’s principles, evading reality, and all of the other Randian no-no’s). This is not merely a prediction; it is a rallying cry, an advocation of war.

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