Labels Are Limiting, A Form of Self-Induced Mental Slavery

Will Wilkinson:

Let me tell a little story. Up until the weeks before I parted ways with Cato, I never felt any overt pressure to toe any sort of party line. But almost as soon as I left, I found that I was noticeably less reflexively defensive about anti-libertarian arguments. I found it easier to the see merit it in them! I feel sure that much of this has to do with the fact that at some level I had recognized that my livelihood depended on staying within the broad bounds of the libertarian reservation, and that this recognition had been exerting a subtle unconscious pressure on my thought. Once I became an independent operator, much of that pressure lifted. And as soon as that pressure lifted, I began to feel much less attached to the libertarian label. And as that sense of attachment waned, I became even less reflexively defensive about anti-libertarian arguments. It became hard for me to avoid the conclusion that my political self-conception had been interfering with my ability to evaluate arguments objectively. I had been letting people on my team get away with bad arguments, and I had been failing to acknowledge the force of arguments against my team’s tenets. The fact that everybody else does this, too, doesn’t make me feel any better about my own sins against Truth.

There is a lot of value in removing your labels – it allows you to be a free spirit not bound to political dogma and allows you to take a more objective view on issues. I don’t call myself a Democrat or liberal or atheist because those are too narrow descriptors that give argumentative power to others on positions I do not personally hold – and if I had to defend them n order to defend my label, it would warp my way of thinking.

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