[Hostility to radical freedom] distinguishes us from liberals and modern conservatives alike[, but t]o question radical freedom is to fundamentally question liberalism: something that good liberals simply cannot acknowledge.
What are effective techniques to argue against radical freedom? Traditionalists generally argue from things like deontological moral theories, metaphysics, tradition, and biblical interpretation. Alan argues in the linked post from natural law and from divine command, for example.
Since deciding to try to give up being a modernist, my attentiveness to these modes of argument has risen. Back when I was a happy modernist, though, these arguments looked like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”
However, arguments claiming that liberalism had bad consequences bothered me. Especially annoying were arguments to the effect that liberalism had bad consequences for vulnerable people but good consequences for me and people like me. That my embrace of liberalism was about thieving and looting the weak.
Pro-life is a widely known such argument. Saying “you are in favor of vivisecting babies in general on the off chance that it might be convenient to vivisect your own someday” really got under my skin. For a while, I was a pro-life atheistic modernist as a result of this irritation.
A similar style of argument pushed me away from market liberalism as well. The style basically goes that market liberalism is a mechanism for privileging smart, dishonest, cynical people at the expense of stupid, honest, trusting people. Steve Sailer makes an argument along these lines here.
Having spent an inordinate amount of time earlier this year figuring out an optimal family cell phone plan, it strikes me that an awful lot of American corporate activity these days consists of figuring out ways to nickel and dime people over complex monthly charges. It’s like a never-ending low intensity war between MBAs with computers versus customers, half of whom will be below average in intelligence, energy, or experience.
Like the abortion argument, this one got caught under my skin and made me itchy. Once you are open to arguments like this, the world seems to become full of situations where smart people are profiting at dumb people’s expense, and by apparent design. Credit card companies lose money on me because I seek out cards which pay me rebates and because I never, ever revolve a balance or am late with a payment. ‘Cause I’m smart like that. Companies make their money on people who are constantly late and revolve. That is people who are either stupid or have serious self-control problems. Grasp that this isn’t OK and that “if you don’t like it, be less stupid” isn’t an answer, and there is a problem.
On a more technically economic note, the arguments of the anti-liberal economist E.K. Hunt (section 3.2.1 of this link, particularly) run along lines which seem similar to me in that they emphasize the tendency of liberal economics to encourage cynical manipulation. A well-known conclusion of Chicago economics holds that when a negative externality occurs, what needs to be done is to create a market so that the person or firm creating the externality can be paid to internalize it. Hunt reacts (the square-braced parentheticals in the quote are not mine, they belong to the linked work above):
If we assume the maximizing economic man of bourgeois economics, and if we assume the government establishes property rights and markets for these rights whenever an external diseconomy is discovered [the preferred “solution” of the conservative and increasingly dominant trend within the field of public finance], then each man will soon discover that through contrivance he can impose external diseconornies on other men, knowing that the bargaining within the new market that will be established will surely make him better off. The more significant the social cost imposed upon his neighbor, the greater will be his reward in the bargaining process. It follows from the orthodox assumption of maximizing man that each man will create a maximum of social costs which he can impose on others. D’Arge and I have labeled this process “the invisible foot” of the laissez faire … market place. The “invisible foot” ensures us that in a free-market … economy each person pursuing only his own good will automatically, and most efficiently, do his part in maximizing the general public misery.