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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5849/john-derbyshire-says-he-has-all-the-answers/

John Derbyshire Says He Has All The Answers

November 5, 2006 by

In his recent post on religion (or his lack thereof), John Derbyshire provides his answer to the prerequisites for a civilized society and I wanted to see what the response would be from the most intelligent comments section in all of the inter-tubes…

Derbyshire stated:

The trick, if you want a reasonably happy and stable society, is to corral human nature into useful, non-socially-destructive styles of expression: sexuality into marriage, or at least some kind of formal and constrained bonding; aggression into sport or military training; the power urge into consensual politics; cheating into conjuring, drama, and games like poker. (I don’t mean you should cheat at poker, only that you need some powers of deception to play poker well.) Any aspect of human nature can get out of hand…That doesn’t mean the aspect is bad, just that some society has done a bad job of corraling [sic] it.

What do you have to say in response?


M E Hoffer November 5, 2006 at 10:38 pm

With this: “John Derbyshire Says He Has All The Answers”, Justin, you have well pegged the suspect Suspect.

Out of couriosity, though, why should we even be concerned with said Derbyshire’s edicts?

Plainly, before he rather gets started, he divulges the Nature of his thought, to wit: “is to corral human nature”. The psycholinguistic valuation of such a phrase is irrefutably anti-Liberty, anti-Free Market, decidedly “realpolitik”.

That he goes on, fulsomely defining the right and wrong, narrowly, of such broad subjects should only cast him, in our knowledge, deeper into the dark dungeon that is Demagoguery.

jeffrey November 5, 2006 at 10:47 pm

There’s a Hobbesian assumption behind all this. The idea is that unless all these horrible impulses are “channeled” we’ll be nasty and brutish and life would be hell. They think they are being Augustinian in saying this but they are really just adopting a modern justification for the military-run society–e.g., particularly revealing is the military comment.

It just underscores the reality that today’s conservatives have never come to terms with the essential insight of liberalism that society contains within itself mechanism for harmonizing interests. All these people need to spend some time with Bastiat to appreciate the role of exchange in the process of building civilization.

Brett Celinski November 6, 2006 at 2:21 am

So people are bad, but the same govt people from those force-using masses will use force, (pay attention to this, conservatives), FORCE, on the masses. Who were force-using masses. And it will work.

That is a representation of my feelings for the slow retardation of the human spirit.

Ben November 6, 2006 at 4:21 am


Matt November 6, 2006 at 7:50 am

You’re assuming he’s arguing for force. He’s making an argument for cultural institutions.

T.G.G.P November 6, 2006 at 8:03 am

Sheesh, what a bunch of over-reactors. Nowhere does Derbyshire actually say he knows the correct way to corral human nature, and his view is not that far off from many libertarians. I bet I could find similar quotations from Mises or Rothbard. Note that the only government institutions he mentions are conscensual politics and the military, and even anarcho-capitalists postulate that such things will exist in Ancapistan when/if that arrives. I’m not saying the Derb is himself a libertarian, just that what he wrote is not inherently un-libertarian.

Urbanitect November 6, 2006 at 10:29 am

It’s good to be bad, except when people get hurt.

Ken Zahringer November 6, 2006 at 12:32 pm

I have to agree with TGGP. Derbyshire is talking about society, not government. He is talking about the shared beliefs we all have that make social life possible. When people channel an urge for deception, to use his example, into fiction or poker, they do it not because some authority forces them to, but because that individual believes that is the proper way to behave. These are the ideas that rule the world, as Mises observed. From that perspective, I would say Derbyshire’s remarks are so obviously true as to be trite.

Jack E November 6, 2006 at 2:51 pm

John’s new religion is interesting. Moses had his commandments. John has his tricks. I’m not sure I agree with this one …

“Thou shalt channel aggression into sport or military training”.

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