Your second paragraph shows you’re confused. You say the libertarian isn’t opposed to cooperation of any kind, but then you talk only of legal contracts. The article represents libertarians as saying that “salvation can arrive only from private actors, from corporations, charities, and the like, but not from government taxation.”

But what the article points out is that governments especially in free societies (with no slaves) are based on an implicit contract, known as the social one. The social contract is the reason people freely defer to government to tackle certain problems. This kind of cooperation and compromise can’t be merely legal, as in the explicit, voluntary forming of corporations, since the implicit social contract is the rational basis for obeying the law in the first place.

Of course, other reasons have been given for following the law, such as submission to divine authority or fear of overwhelming force. Those are the conservative’s reasons or frauds which kept our species in theocracies, monarchies, and other slave states for millennia. The philosophical point about the social contract, though, is that we all have the potential to understand the benefits of deferring to government even in a free state (in which we can go our own way), since that would keep us out of the natural state of life in the wild, which Thomas Hobbes called “nasty, brutish, and short.”

So the question about contracts isn’t just whether they’re voluntary or coerced, as you suggest; it’s whether they’re implicit or explicit. Legal contracts are explicit, whereas the social contract is implicit, and it has to do with our potential to act as people rather than just as animals.

There would be no legal contracts if people didn’t respect the law. Why do we respect the law? Is it just because of the fear of God or of punishment by the king? That’s what the conservative’s “traditions” would have you believe. But because we’re more rational than animals, we can envision the difference between life in the wild (in the conservative’s preferred state, given the effect of her political and economic policies) and life in a revolutionary, ideal society, based on reason, cooperation, and good will. Those who work to achieve the latter are progressive humanists as opposed to conservative animalists.

Far from showing that I do any strawmanning in the article, you back up exactly what I say about the libertarian’s insistence that only private cooperation is valid, compromise with the elected government being submission to thieves. Thus, to finish the above quotation, the article says, “If the libertarian says that salvation can arrive only from private actors, from corporations, charities, and the like, but not from government taxation, she’ll have to explain why the former is rational, whereas agreeing to pool some of your money with the rest of society to address large-scale problems—including those created or left untouched by the free market—is somehow irrational.”

Then I explain why the libertarian has this double standard: “the libertarian doesn’t want to cooperate, because she thinks compromise amounts to coercion, to the opposite of freedom.”

Yes, libertarians will cooperate if it’s voluntary and explicit, but not if it’s foundational, structural, or systematic. Libertarians are individualists who see everyone as being implicitly at war with everyone else. They thinks that Darwinian competition is inevitable. Therefore, while we may be free to team up, we can do so only individually, not collectively or nationally (but exceptions are inconsistently made for the police and the military who take care of the nation’s defense). When some teams win at the expense of others that lose in the marketplace, there should be no federal salvation for the losers. Only fellow private actors such as charities have the right to help the losers, according to libertarians, because the government can only coerce, by operating with the lack of explicit support from every single person in its purview.

This is to say precisely that the libertarian rejects the implicit social contract, and that’s equivalent to saying that the libertarian presupposes the necessity of a Darwinian struggle even in human societies. That implies there’s no fundamental distinction between people and animals, for libertarians.

You say “taking turns is a terrible principle,” because sometimes the majority can vote to legalize slavery or wife beating. Indeed, that’s roughly what happened with the election of Trump. Trump is an authoritarian who had no respect for American laws or norms, and he installed regressive (“conservative”) judges to subvert the Supreme Court. But this is why free societies have those norms (i.e. the implicit social contract that makes us people, not just animals), to enculturate the population and to weed out illiberal attitudes and factions.

These norms are grounded in the Enlightenment philosophy of the liberated autonomous individual, and that philosophy includes the various implications I spell out in the article. It’s not just that we should respect everyone’s freedom by not physically harming them, but that we should respect our common humanity, our potential to think and to work together to keep us out of the natural state (out of the conservative’s treasured dominance hierarchy).

We need representative government, not just capitalistic enterprises to do that. Witness, for example, the environmental costs of libertarian/Darwinian capitalism. Thus, we should vote for representatives who respect the Enlightenment ideals, and those shared ideals explain why functioning democracies tend not to revert to the conservative’s preferred state of the regressive, primitive dominance hierarchy (with slavery, sexism, mass inequality, fraud, corruption, etc).

Of course, the potential for regression is there in any democracy. Indeed, there’s a populist backlash against neoliberalism in numerous countries now, including the US. That’s because of the flaws in liberalism, which I also write about. I’m not a partisan liberal, progressive, or socialist here. I aim to get to the bottom of philosophical matters.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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