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Comments on "The Society Most Conducive to Problem Solving: Karl Popper and Piecemeal Social Engineering"

Brian Gladish published The Society Most Conducive to Problem Solving: Karl Popper and Piecemeal Social Engineering in The Independent Review. I'm reposting my comments here.


Thanks for sharing the article. I found your comments on Popper’s thinking much more accurate than most secondary sources.

In case you hadn’t seen it yet, I wanted to share Popper’s "The Power Of Television” (After the Open Society, ch. 48). In it, Popper advocates TV censorship, particularly regarding depicting violence. Excerpt:

What I propose is that such an organization be created by the state for all people who are involved in the production of television. Everybody who is connected with it must have a licence. This licence can be withdrawn from him for life, if he acts against certain principles. That is my way of introducing discipline into this subject. Everybody must be organized, and everybody must have a licence. Everybody who is doing something which he should not do by the rules of the organization can lose his licence – the licence can be withdrawn from him by a kind of court. So he is constantly under supervision, and he constantly has to fear that if he does something bad he may lose his licence. This constant supervision is something far more effective than is censorship.

Popper said this in 1992 and was particularly eager to have these ideas widely shared. It shows how limited his "lifetime drift toward classical liberalism” was.

Your article mentions Popper’s "complicated scheme of seminationalization”. I wanted to share with people what that means. The letter is available in After the Open Society, ch. 34. Quote:

The comparatively easy problem is the nationalization problem. I suggest, in brief, that the state should take a share of 51 per cent of the shares of all public companies (= with shares quoted on the Stock Exchange). However, (a) they should not be interfered with in general, only if the situation warrants it, and (b) only 40 per cent, or 41 per cent, of the income should go to the state to start with.

Although I admire and advocate Popper’s epistemology, this is awful.

I had a quick comment on this part of the paper:

But it is somewhat harsh to criticize Popper for this failure [to advocate anarcho-capitalism] because he had contemporaries who were better equipped to make this leap—Mises and Hayek, for example—but who did not.

Why bring up anarchism? That criticism would be harsh, but we can fairly criticize Popper’s rejection of minarchism, minimal and limited government, and classical liberalism.

Here’s the big picture as I see it. Popper gave us:

(1) Critical Rationalism & reason -> (2) linking arguments -> (3) freedom & non-violence -> (4) linking arguments -> (5) interventionist government

His 1-3 were correct and his 4-5 were incorrect. His 1 was especially original and valuable. We can form our own system using Popper’s 1-3 followed by Misean arguments linking freedom & non-violence to e.g. laissez faire capitalism and limited government. Or we could follow with anarchist arguments to replace 4-5. 1-3 function independently of what we think freedom & non-violence imply.

Popper’s 4-5 were unoriginal and added nothing significant to the debate. He basically followed Marx in thinking that true freedom requires the forcible prevention of economic exploitation, e.g. in OSE:

I believe that the injustice and inhumanity of the unrestrained 'capitalist system' described by Marx cannot be questioned

Note how blatantly he contradicts his own fallibilist epistemology which teaches us that all ideas can be questioned.

Anyway, Popper was right to link reason with non-violence (and right to link reason with evolution, to reject induction, etc.), and we can and should use that part of Popper’s thinking without using his Marxist followup.

What do you think?

PS: FYI, there’s a typo in the 12th endnote: “seemto” instead of “seem to”.


Elliot Temple on February 24, 2020

Messages (3)

Cool

I like this writeup. I can't access the original article easily on my phone but I'll try a few methods when I get home. I'm curious to see how Brian responds. Was this an email to him?

My favourite part:

> Here’s the big picture as I see it. Popper gave us:

> (1) Critical Rationalism & reason -> (2) linking arguments -> (3) freedom & non-violence -> (4) linking arguments -> (5) interventionist government

> His 1-3 were correct and his 4-5 were incorrect. His 1 was especially original and valuable. We can form our own system using Popper’s 1-3 followed by Misean arguments linking freedom & non-violence to e.g. laissez faire capitalism and limited government. Or we could follow with anarchist arguments to replace 4-5. 1-3 function independently of what we think freedom & non-violence imply.

What I like about this is that you point out how 1 -> 3 are independent of 4 -> 5, and that we can find the former valuable and significant while still validly criticizing and rejecting the latter as unoriginal and not a significant contribution. I imagine Popper would have voted for Bernie today. Why do you think he had this sort of authoritarian streak of thinking somehow nestled within all the individual liberty and fallible philosophy he developed? Is DD's political philosophy a much better reflection of CR than Popper's? Is DD's set of ideas and mind more integrated in general than Popper's was?


Freeze at 4:25 PM on February 25, 2020 | #15618 | reply | quote

Any response from Gladish?


Freeze at 4:12 PM on March 3, 2020 | #15724 | reply | quote

#15724 Yeah and it was fairly long but not public and IMO boring. He didn't give direct responses to my point about anarchy or my point about 1-5. He also didn't ask me a question and or create good ways for conversation to continue.


curi at 4:18 PM on March 3, 2020 | #15725 | reply | quote

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