Saturday, August 16, 2014

The failure that is "pragmatism"

How many times have you been scolded and told to be "pragmatic"?

If you advocate for liberty and gun rights, I'll bet you've heard that a lot. After all, you can't expect "them" to actually respect your rights. "The perfect is the enemy of the good." And, you shouldn't be so stubborn and inflexible.


There is a time and place for pragmatism. Choosing to initiate force or theft- or excusing those who do- because you can't get the bad guys to admit they are evil isn't it.

Don't tell me to offer up one of my kids "pragmatically" as a human sacrifice so the others may have a better chance to live. Wrong is wrong. I may never live in a perfect world- in fact I'm quite certain I won't- but you don't hit the target by refusing to pick up your weapon for fear of hurting someone's feelings or spooking the herd. Aim small; miss small. I know what I want.

Yes, your compromise with evil may be better than "what is", and I won't stop you from advocating for it. I'll even enjoy any fruits of liberty you manage to bring to harvest. But I'll never be distracted from the prize. I also hope once you get "enough liberty" you'll decide to join my drive for the rest of the pie.



  1. Pragmatics is dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. I don't think anyone could "offer up a child sacrifice" pragmatically.

    I'm what one could describe as a "pragmatic anarchist". I don't seek a "system" or "society" for my freedom or my happiness. I don't need for you to refrain from voting ('though I wish you would) for me to be free. And I don't need policemen to stop policing (I wish they would) for my liberty.

    I can only enhance your freedom if I'm free. So I'd better be free. Here. Now. Where I am. Today.


    Nor rattlesnakes to cease biting when agitated.

  2. That's a poor definition of pragmatics in your first sentence, Samuel. You're using "theoretical" as if it's totally sundered from reality, when really the principle of any matter should first and foremost be correspondent with reality. In this manner, the "principled theory" will yield a sensible and realistic practice. The moral IS the practical and if it's not, then it's not a proper moral principle.

    More commonly, Pragmatism yields, "The ends justify the means," without regard to whether or not the means is in accordance with an hierarchically superior principle. "Two of my kids will have a better chance of living, so I should sacrifice the third." That might be "sensible and realistic" on its face, but it involves a morally wrong choice--the killling of a kid--and so would be an erroneous decision.

    Kent's got it right---"Wrong is wrong." It's also worth noting that your last line is an extraordinarily principled statement, without regard to its potential consequences. IOW it's not at all indicative of a belief in Pragmatism.

    1. Can't engage in word calisthenics, Jim, and my comment was not meant to be argumentative with Kent's Blog. You could very well be correct in your assessment of "pragmatics" if you interpret "the ends justify the means" as being an invariable axiom attached thereto. Obviously that would be deficient in many areas, because "wrong is wrong" as you and Kent say. I have no argument with that. Your assessment of pragmatics appears closely aligned with that of the folks over at Daily Bell.

      I did a graduate program in pragmatics under Paul Watzlawick a hundred or so years ago (well, I do tend to stretch things a bit), and I carry his basic thesis with me to this day: People create their own suffering in the very act of trying to fix their emotional problems.

      I see a model of that in libertarian essays much of the time. Since none of us has experienced freedom on a societal level, the natural tendency is to argue over theory. After all, we have no reality with which to anchor our theses. I have no idea exactly how "society" will look if and when government as we know it implodes -- will governmentalists just....go away??? Somalia provides us some projections -- in practically all but Mogadishu (where various rulership factions continue to try to gain a stranglehold on central "power") Somalia represents anarchy.

      Kent presented a list of some of his favorite readings a couple weeks back that outlined what's happening in Somalia. And we do have examples (Kent posted links to this one) of how things turn out when psychopaths give up the ghost and allow "freedom to ring".

      I refuse to wail and gnash my teeth and wring my hands over things I have no control over whatsoever. The Border Patrol and Police are examples of that.

      And that, Jim, is what gave rise to that last sentence in my previous post. I can only be responsible for my own liberty and my own freedom -- nobody else's. Pragmatic or no, if it's going to be, it's up to me.