This page explains my learning of libertarianism, which mostly happened during summer of 2017.
Things to mention:
- Background: I had read a lot of Bryan Caplan’s blog posts, so I knew a bit about the libertarian sphere
- I think I had read at least half of Michael Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority prior to summer of 2017, in two phases
- I made a bunch of timelines as I went along
- Doherty’s Freewheeling History
- I then read parts of a bunch of books like:
- Tannehill and Tannehill’s The Market for Liberty (too Randian)
- Rothbard’s For a New Liberty (didn’t think the book was good, but I enjoyed Bryan Caplan’s book club series on Econlog)
- Ellickson’s Order without Law (only read a bit of the intro)
- David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom (seemed good)
- a bunch of PDFs and blog posts from random places – I didn’t really keep track of this
I think TPPA is the strongest introduction to anarcho-capitalism.
I think libertarianism is one case where it is interesting to explore ideas given its assumptions (like the homestead principle), even if you don’t agree with the assumptions. Vladimir Slepnev (speaking not necessarily about libertarianism): “The only way to make intellectual progress (either individually or as a group) is to explore the implications of interesting assumptions wherever they might lead. Unfortunately people love to argue about assumptions instead of getting anything done, though they can’t really judge before exploring the implications in detail.”
Similar quote (this time about consciousness): “What’s the problem if a group of people explores the implications of a well-respected position in philosophy and are (I think) fully aware of the implications?”
This is similar to the idea of “biting the bullet”.
See also my comment here about executable philosophy. Drescher takes the same approach in Good and Real; see the quote here.
Eliezer also talks about this in his essay on local validity. Holden also talks about this in the section “Changing my mind about general properties of promising ideas and interventions”.
I think Vipul has said similar things about open borders.
See also this post:
It thus seems particularly important to have different research teams tackle the problems from different perspectives and under different assumptions.
From a portfolio approach perspective, a particular research avenue is worthwhile if it helps to cover the space of possible reasonable assumptions. For example, while MIRI’s research is somewhat controversial, it relies on a unique combination of assumptions that other groups are not exploring, and is thus quite useful in terms of covering the space of possible assumptions.
This whole approach can be seen as a sort of “disagree and commit” principle with respect to assumptions: disputing assumptions leads to inaction/unproductive debate, so take an assumption and see where it leads.