Yesterday I wrote an article entitled “In Defense of Dinesh D’Souza”. In that article I mentioned past podcast guest and author of For Individual Rights: A Treatise on Human Relations and REASON and LIBERTY: The Foundations of Civilization Shayne Wissler’s theory that all human actions can be classified as either “rights” or “crimes”. My purpose was to point out that D’Souza’s act of influencing friends to donate to a certain political candidate and promising to reimburse them – an act for which he is facing up to two years in jail under campaign finance laws – should not be considered a crime.
Wissler sent me over a reply to the article criticizing my defense of D’Souza in this context, and he makes many valid points. His response below:
Although I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit in which Marc intended this post, I want to make an objection.
I think the spirit of Marc’s post is exemplified by this quote:
“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” –Noam Chomsky
However, I think there are nuances in D’Souza’s case that make me think that coming to his defense here is ill-advised. I don’t want to be too specific on a case I consider to be unimportant, so I’ll give a different example.
Consider a completely fictional scenario, where a country that was almost entirely corporatist, where by virtue of a tangled web of insidious laws, virtually all employees are effectively feudal serfs. Given this fictional context, consider a newly proposed law that would add a constraint to these quasi-governmental corporate entities, for example, requiring them to pay a minimum wage.
In this fictional scenario, virtually everyone must either work for one of these corporations or starve. Even when anyone happens to start and run their own business, it is only a paltry minority, who were allowed to do this just to keep up the appearance that the system was not thoroughly corporatist.
In this context, I would argue that it is foolish to argue against the minimum wage, without first unwinding the corporatism to at least some degree. In general, I would argue that there is an intelligent order, a priority in which political problems should be addressed, and that it is ill-advised to not consider the context in which the law actually exists and whether it is mitigating to some degree even more damaging laws. To ignore this context, to argue as if you are actually within a free market when you are not, is to make the situation worse.
I think we should keep the discussion of principle (as in rights vs. crimes) clearly distinct from the problem of applying these principles to the present situation. Whereas the discussion of principles is relatively straightforward, I think there is a potentially intricate “art of unwinding” that needs to be carefully applied in the latter case, and I think the D’Souza case is an example of this.
Wissler makes a good point about understanding the context of certain laws, and I’ll say that in hindsight the title of my article itself was a bit misleading. I am not actually defending D’Souza himself, a man whose political views I know very little about.
It’s clear that in this case he D’Souza clearly knew the law in place, and was intentionally attempting to skirt around it. He was not doing this out of some sort of heroic disobedience, but rather in order to push forward whatever political agenda he believes our current crony capitalist / fascist government should undertake. It could even be argued that D’Souza may in fact be advocating for “crimes” against others, depending on what he actually advocates for. For example, as a self-described “conservative”, it would not shock me at all if he were a supporter of the “War on Drugs”.
Shayne is also correct when identifying the spirit of my post with the Chomsky quote. In a vacuum, it is outrageous to jail somebody for the act of simply supporting a political candidate monetarily or encouraging others to do so, regardless of the political beliefs held by that person. But we don’t live in a vacuum, and it can certainly be argued that campaign finance laws can be viewed, at some level, as a way to curtail the influence of the most wealthy over the current corporate state. Context is important here, and it’s something I didn’t delve into in yesterday’s article.
I don’t venture that Shayne Wissler would advocate D’Souza being locked up in a cage for his beliefs or his actions, but his point about the context of our current situation is important, and one that libertarians and other free market advocates often gloss over or ignore completely when advocating for certain policies.
Check out my podcast with Shayne Wissler from Episode 2 of the Lions of Liberty Podcast.
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