Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Road to International Socialism


Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

EvKL offers an examination of three thinkers (well, two thinkers and one movement) that continued and accelerated the move toward radical thought during the nineteenth century, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Karl Marx, and the Fabian Society.  Following is a brief examination of each.

Pierre Joseph Proudhon

Proudhon was certainly an enemy of the omnipotent state, but he was an enemy of many other ideas and realities: some for the good, some not so much.

First, for the good: he certainly made an enemy of Karl Marx.  While both had similar ends in mind – the withering away of the state, the end of a concentration of wealth, etc. – they had different means.  For Proudhon the means was to be through evolutionary change, where the proper end was discovered.  For Marx it was the other way – we saw this way in Lenin and Stalin.

Now for the not so much: Proudhon, while not collectivist was a socialist favoring distribution of income – a mutualist. 

He was strongly opposed to economic liberalism because he feared bigness, the concentration of wealth, mammoth enterprises, yet he was equally an enemy of the omnipotent centralized state which figures as the keystone in all leftist thinking.

His ideas were bound to come into conflict with the later socialist ideas of dictatorial and centralizing power.

While EvKL believes that had Proudhon’s methods prevailed, the West might have coped with socialism better, I am not so sure.  Ultimately socialism destroys: destroys wealth, destroys community, destroys culture, destroys property, destroys tradition.  No society can survive this.

Karl Marx

[Marx] wrote a dissertation on Epicurus, whose philosophy has a decidedly materialistic flavor, for the University of Jena which gave him a Ph.D. In Berlin young Marx became strongly influenced by Hegel and his school.

Epicureanism offers gods, but gods that do not in any way concern themselves with the goings-on of this world.  What good are irrelevant gods?  Yes, I guess that is the point.

…one does not find any preoccupation with ethics in Marx's thinking or writing.

If the gods don’t care, why would Marx?  Better yet, if Marx can find gods who do not care, all the better.

Morality, Feuerbach insisted, will never be sustained by religion, but only by an improvement in living conditions-in other words, by "social betterment." This of course is a notion which not only became typically Marxist but which is shared by the American moderate left, if not by American folklore. 

Who is this Feuerbach?

Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (28 July 1804 – 13 September 1872) was a German philosopher and anthropologist best known for his book The Essence of Christianity, which provided a critique of Christianity which strongly influenced generations of later thinkers, including Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Richard Wagner, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Building Blocks of Society



I will offer a brief examination of the several political building blocks as offered by Althusius.  These will begin with the most fundamental and voluntary and culminate with the aggregate and distant – but not yet the sovereign.  Ultimately, the question to be answered is what happens when the aggregate and distant polity plays by rules that the fundamental and voluntary groups don’t like. 

The Family

…without this primary association others are able neither to arise nor to endure. …individual men covenanting among themselves to communicate whatever is necessary and useful for organizing and living a private life.

Whether you believe this was given to us in God’s Creation or whether you believe such a practice evolved as the one most conducive for “organizing and living a private life” which desire also evolved as necessary for survival, this practice is in our DNA.  We destroy it and abuse it at the peril of civilized society.

Althusius offers that this body performs as one and can be considered as one; there is a family “interest” (for lack of a better term).  Aid and assistance is offered among members of the family – something destroyed when the state assumes the role of mother, father, son, and daughter.

The rights for those in this association are rights of blood; members of this association communicate for mutual advantage.  Duties are owed toward kinsmen: forethought, mutual defense, care.  The family should not be excluded when one considers political society:

[The] knowledge of other associations is…incomplete and defective without this doctrine of conjugal and kinship private association…

Destroy the family and you destroy the fundamentally necessary building block for decentralized society.

The Collegium

The family is a natural association.  Althusius now moves to the civil: associations voluntarily formed at the pleasure of the individual members; associations serving a common utility and necessity in human life.  These must serve both the whole body of people and the individual members. 

When the head of the family leaves the area of authority over the family and enters into the broader community, he enters into a realm of ally and citizen.  From here is formed a civil association – a collegium: a trade association, society, federation, sodality, synagogue, convention, or synod; one will find a collegia of bakers, tailors, builders, merchants, coiners of money, philosophers, theologians, government officials, etc.  Some will be ecclesiastical and sacred, some secular and profane.

The collegium is governed according to covenanted agreements.  These agreements govern the body as a whole, but cannot be formed to treat individual members uniquely – for such matters, unanimous consent is required.

Secession is possible; as with all such decisions, one will be faced with weighing benefits and costs.  The head of the collegium is to be elected by its members; as the associations are voluntary, the individual members are, of course, free to leave if unsatisfied. 

The City

Beginning with the city, Althusius will offer many specific details requiring the performance of the officials charged with such duty.  I will not examine these as I find these applicable to the culture and tradition of a specific time and place.  The answers and applications, it seems to me, will reflect the culture and tradition of the society so formed.

The city is a body made up of the private associations described above, the various collegia that are made up of individuals and families; the city is not a body of individual “citizens.”  It is from these bodies that the idea of citizenship is formed:

Differing from citizens, however, are foreigners, outsiders, aliens, and strangers whose duty is to mind their own business, make no strange inquiries, not even to be curious in a foreign commonwealth, but to adapt themselves, as far as good conscience permits, to the customs of the place and city where they live in order that they might not be a scandal to themselves and others.

Hans Hoppe has offered a concise statement regarding the value and purpose of just such a position.  He is well known, and often chastised, for his views about throwing out of the community those who might disrupt it (a position with which I agree, and find quite libertarian).  Here, he offers a simple statement as to why:

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Finding That Which is Lost



This essay, published at the Mises Institute site, offers interesting thoughts on the question in its title.  I would like to expand on some, challenge others. 

NB: To be clear: I know Raico has written volumes on this and related topics; hence, my challenges are not necessarily of Raico’s larger positions as they are merely to use this essay to continue a dialogue being held at this blog for some time.

The Framework

Raico opens with his definition of Classical Liberalism:

"Classical liberalism" is the term used to designate the ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade.

Although its fundamental claims are universalist…

I am not sure I agree with this last statement – and I would welcome some assistance from the audience on this topic.  What Raico is including strikes me as too broad.  In the meantime…what is meant by “universalist”?

Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals", regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature.

According to philosophy professor R. W. Hepburn: "To move towards the objectivist pole is to argue that moral judgements can be rationally defensible, true or false, that there are rational procedural tests for identifying morally impermissible actions, or that moral values exist independently of the feeling-states of individuals at particular times."

An example is offered, regarding The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “can be read as assuming a kind of moral universalism”:

Although the Declaration has undeniably come to be accepted throughout the world as a cornerstone of the international system for the protection of human rights, a belief among some that the Universal Declaration does not adequately reflect certain important worldviews has given rise to more than one supplementary declaration, such as the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam and the Bangkok Declaration.

This gets to my point.  Returning to Raico: many of the characteristics he identified (private property, unhampered market economies, freedom of religion) are looked at quite differently in other countries, with other cultures, traditions, religions.  Is it universalist to give them private property rights, good and hard? 

The Foundation

More significantly, it seems to me, consider the following from Raico:

…liberalism must be understood first of all as a doctrine and movement that grew out of a distinctive culture and particular historical circumstances.

Yes, it did.  Why?  And why not elsewhere?  Ever in recorded history, as far as I can tell.

That culture — as Lord Acton recognized most clearly — was the West, the Europe that was or had been in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

Yes it was that culture.  And there might be some significance in this regarding the inapplicability of the universalist idea.  There has to be some reason these characteristics sprang up in this culture and no other.

Raico points to the Dutch, who freed themselves from the Spanish Habsburgs, creating a polity grounded in the earliest manifestations of something approaching this liberal society. 

The historical circumstances were the confrontation of the free institutions and values inherited from the Middle Ages with the pretensions of the absolutist state of the 16th and 17th centuries.

I think this is a key statement: Raico offers a glimpse into how and why this liberal tradition gained a footing: it was built upon the decentralized institutions and values that were developed and sustained during Medieval Europe, butting these up against the absolutist kings (both Catholic and Protestant) that had a free hand once the competing authority of the “Bishop of Rome” was neutered. 

But it wasn’t the Dutch that created this form; they were merely attempting to mimic that which was formed in the Middle Ages; Althusius states this clearly – all the while giving credit to these Dutch “freedom fighters.”  But absent the competing authority of the Church against the king, this would prove to be an uphill, and ultimately a losing, battle.

It was in the space made available between the Church and the king where these institutions were given life and grew; it was in this space in between where these institutions could exercise authority; it was due to the Church acting as a check against the king, and vice versa, that the space in between could even exist.

Without the authority of the Church there was no institution with the authority to stand up to the king.  But it took some time for these intermediating institutions to die – and for the kings to become Monarchs and eventually, States.

Success!

…John Locke framed the doctrine of the natural rights to life, liberty, and estate — which he collectively termed "property" — in the form that would be passed down, through the Real Whigs of the 18th century, to the generation of the American Revolution.

America became the model liberal nation, and, after England, the exemplar of liberalism to the world.

Finally, a chance to prove out the theory.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ideology


Jordan Peterson did an interview with GQ Magazine UK.  It’s pretty long, certainly worth watching if you have an interest in the topic of the Peterson Express.  The woman doing the interview learned well from previous individuals in her position – none of this, “so what you’re saying is…” stuff.

Just one comment I want to touch on, beginning at about the 1 hour 8 minute mark.  The context: many of the interviewer’s views are plumb-line tyrannical male-patriarchy stuff.  Peterson decides to challenge her on it – challenge not just the idea, but her as an individual:

I see that there’s two different realms, the realm of values and a realm of facts.  In the realm of facts, science reigns supreme, but not in the realm of values.  You have to look elsewhere.  That is what the humanities were for, before they got – what would you say – hijacked by ideologues. 

She believes it is just a small handful of college professors that are causing all the trouble.

And you know, the idea that some things should be consistent – you were talking about the necessity of consistency in ideology, it’s like I’m not hearing what you think.  I’m hearing about how you are able to represent the ideology you were taught.  And it’s not that interesting, because I don’t know anything about you.  I could replace you with someone who thinks the same way and that means you’re not here.  That’s what it means. 

Wow!

And it’s not pleasant.  You’re not integrating the specifics of your personal experience with what you’ve been taught.  To synthesize something that’s genuine and surprising, and engaging in a narrative sense as a consequence.  And that’s the pathology of ideological possession.

This point about not integrating her personal experience fits within the context of the interview up until this point, as the interviewer offers personal experiences that are counter to the ideology of tyrannical male-patriarchy – or at least she is unable to counter Peterson’s counter-examples.

And it’s not good.  It’s not good that I know where you stand on things once I know a few things.  It’s like, why have a conversation?  I already know where you stand on things.

Mmmm…

A few years ago, I was accused of being dogmatic.  It didn’t bother me, I relished it and said so.  I also wrote the following:

Someday I might conclude that one or more of the above requires modification.  So far, none of the above items have even been at minor risk of getting modified in any meaningful way.

Today is that “someday,” I guess.  In the subject post, I offered six statements.  A few of these require a revisit, I think:

I hold to the non-aggression principle as the only proper view regarding the use of force in society; this is based on an absolute commitment to the concept of private property.

Absolutes are a real problem when it comes to the application of philosophy, I have come to learn.  While property in the Middle Ages was far more secure under the law than property is today, commitment to private property as we understand was not absolute.  The property owner could not destroy his property, for example; there were varying interpretations of the legality and applicability of usury, as another.

Maybe this idea of how practices developed in the longest-lasting-closest-to-libertarian-law society we have known shouldn’t matter, but maybe it should.  Practices developed over decades and centuries for a reason, after all.

I support fully free markets for all transactions and relationships that are not in conflict with the non-aggression principle.

See my response regarding property, above.

I believe that for a society to thrive – even survive – that governance (not government as it is known today) is required.

No change here.

I believe this governance is best provided first by family and kin, thereafter extended to church, community, social and benevolent organizations and the like.

I still fully agree with this, but I don’t feel I placed enough emphasis on “church,” either as a moral instructor or as a counter-balancing center of authority.  I have learned quite a bit in the intervening years, I guess.

Voluntary governance is further extended via contract.  The right to contract on any matter is absolute, as long as the object of the contract is not in violation of the non-aggression principle.

See my response regarding property, above.

Contracts can come in many forms.

No change here.

Conclusion

Here we go again…”I knew it.  Bionic isn’t a libertarian!”

I guess it depends what you mean by the term “libertarian.”  If you mean Libertarian – as compared to Republican or Democratic – Party, no I am not.  Although, if Tom Woods is successful in moving the LP toward actual libertarianism (assuming this is his objective), then I could change my mind on this one.

If you mean “libertarian” like the theory is the one true faith or some such, then no, I guess I am not.  But I don’t believe I ever was; it’s just now I understand better why this is so.

If you mean “libertarian” like working to find the application of the theory in a world populated by imperfect humans, well you can breathe a sigh of relief...assuming this label as applied to bionic means anything to you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Politics According to Althusius



Politics is the art of associating men for the purpose of establishing, cultivating, and conserving social life among them.  Whence it is called “symbiotics.”  The subject matter of politics is therefore association, in which the symbiotes pledge themselves each to the other, by explicit or tacit agreement, to mutual communication of whatever is useful and necessary for the harmonious exercise of social life.

I have often referred to a peaceful society when thinking about a libertarian society.  Why is that?  While peace is certainly not the same as liberty, absent peace it is difficult to maintain liberty in any meaningful sense.  In the worst case, the absence of peace results in death, whether the death of one or the death of millions.  Certainly liberty for those who think of the next world, yet I am reminded of the saying: everyone wants to get to heaven; no one is in a hurry to get there.

But even in the best case, the absence of peace means the presence of conflict; the presence of conflict means people will call for someone to do something about it.  We know where this road leads, and in fact we know that the “someone” who has been called to do something about it will create demand for his services by increasing the supply of the absence of peace.

For this reason, the statement by Althusius seems reasonable to me also from a libertarian perspective.  But the statement and, in fact, the foundation of Althusius’ views, needs a little unpacking.  The first point to clarify is his view of the word “right.”  He will often use this word, yet we should not attribute to quickly the meaning “public right” or “unalienable human right.”

For example, one cannot read Althusius without running headlong into his reliance on the Decalogue, the necessity of training in the worship of God, and the duties that ought to be performed toward one’s neighbors – call it the Golden Rule.  In other words, Althusius is no anarchist and in some ways crosses the line of minarchism. 

The issue is: does he present a model for decentralized and reasonably voluntary governance?  In other words: we need not compare Althusius to utopia; perhaps we ought to compare him merely to our current lot.  Compared to his peers – who offered Leviathan and the unitary and unified sovereign – did Althusius offer a better path?

What does Althusius mean when he uses the word “communication”?  He considers it our common enterprise, involving things, services, and common rights.  It is our daily interaction, including our obligations toward each other that are useful toward achieving and maintain this “harmonious exercise of social life.”

From a libertarian viewpoint, the most difficult aspect to get past in Althusius work is his concept and necessity of a ruler.  There is no getting around this idea in his work; the only issue is: to what extent have I voluntarily agreed to his rule and in what ways might I seceded?  This must be considered in the context that the “I” in question is the voluntarily formed sub-groups (trades, guilds, colleges, etc.), which stand between the ruler and the individual. 

These intermediate groups, as I have noted elsewhere, are fundamentally necessary if one is to hope for the decrease in state power.  Atomistic individualism is not to find its way into Althusius’ view.  Writing of such social hermits, he asks:

For how can they promote the advantage of their neighbor unless they find their way into human society?  How can they perform works of love when they live outside human fellowship?  How can the church be built and the remaining duties of the first table of the Decalogue be performed?

In these questions you find Althusius’ worldview, the picture of his society: voluntarily formed with duties willingly assumed.  The square peg of “duties” also doesn’t fit neatly into the libertarian round hole. 

He bases this issue of duties on the recognition that God did not create all men with equal abilities – this necessitates the division of labor and obligates us to mutual service.  By doing so, “no one would consider another to be valueless.”  In such a manner, a “commonwealth” is formed.

Note: “value,” in this view, is not based on what somebody says or who (or what) somebody is.  Value is based on what somebody does.  A very liberating free-market idea, when considered in economics.  Likely the same when considered in politics and social life.

From what has been said, we further conclude that the efficient cause of political association is consent and agreement among the communicating citizens… The final cause of politics is the enjoyment of a comfortable, useful, and happy life, and a peaceful and quiet welfare…

Conclusion

And a warning:

But if all were truly equal, and each wished to rule others according to his own will, discord would easily arise, and by discord the dissolution of society.  There would be no standard of virtue or merit, and it follows that equality itself would be the greatest inequality.

We find in this statement the downfall of universalist utopians – whether communist or libertarian.  Without hierarchy in society – derived naturally, defined culturally – society dissolves.  The issue remains: how voluntary?  The more naturally derived the hierarchy, the easier it is for the resultant structures and institutions to be accepted by the broader commonwealth.

As all men do not have equal abilities, there will be naturally formed hierarchies – in family, community, guild, college, the church, and ultimately in the governance of the commonwealth.  This will be examined next, beginning with the family.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Open Borders


You have all seen the images: the million-man march coming through Mexico toward the border of the United States.  I suppose you have also seen the pictures of hundreds of individuals climbing the fence that separates Spanish Africa from Morocco (did you know there was a part of Spain in Africa?).

Is it peaceful immigration, people looking for a better life, escaping tyranny?  Is it an invasion?  Can it be both?  How would you decide?  Are these people looking to establish homes in the unoccupied vastness of the Rockies, the deserts, the Alps? 

Are these people armed or unarmed?  Are they acting on behalf of another state?  Are they being supported by a malevolent non-state actor?  Maybe a (so-called) “non-governmental organization”?  Does an invasion require tanks and helicopters to be classified as such?  Is it OK if it is a private, mercenary army and not a state military?

If these people were marching toward your home, would you allow them an open border?  If you were paying someone – voluntarily or not – to provide protection from invasion, would you expect them to allow these “visitors”?

Until individuals in the west have complete private property rights, any talk of open borders is naïve at best and tyrannical at worst.  Until individuals in the west have complete private property rights, someone other than you will be making decisions about who does and doesn’t cross borders.

Until there are no state borders, it will be the state that makes the decision on who crosses the borders.  In a world of state borders, every decision regarding immigration is a centrally-panned, state-enforced-at-the-end-of-the-barrel-of-a-gun decision; even a position of open borders.

Anyone who calls for open borders in a world of state borders wants you impotent in the face of the million-man march.  This they describe as “liberty.”  If you don’t think The Camp of the Saints paints the picture, take a look again at the pictures from Mexico and Spain.

Anyone who calls for open borders in a world of state borders might be mouthing the word “liberty”; just keep in mind: it isn’t your liberty that they are talking about.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Conclusion…


…call it interim, as I still plan to read, write and learn.  You might think of this as the closing chapter of a book that is still being written.  (You could consider this the opening chapter).

The most fruitful and meaningful topic that I have explored at this blog is that of the intersection of libertarianism and culture.  My first baby steps on this topic began with the recognition that the non-aggression principle couldn’t define or apply itself; it couldn’t objectively identify all of the practical applications to be drawn out from the theory; it wouldn’t be applied in every society in the same manner.

My next steps took me to working through the benefits of a common culture, which quickly led me to a specific culture, a culture and tradition where the concepts of the non-aggression principle were most broadly applied and for an extended period – the Christian Middle Ages.  Why was this so?  What was unique about this time and place?  What was it about the various institutions that created this environment of decentralized law and governance?

Finally, exploring where it went wrong: the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and Progressivism.  Each played a role, perhaps.  But what was the role?  We see the benefits from such movements, but what of the cost?  What did this Age of Reason remove from the earlier medieval society that then also took away the underlying foundations that supported decentralized governance and libertarian law?

Of course, my steps didn’t follow in this precise sequence, but generally this describes the road.  And while I have touched on the topic of what this all means, perhaps now is a good time to summarize just that.

A Strategy for Liberty

Yes, I have stolen this from the title of chapter 15 of Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto.  Rothbard offers:

If, then, the libertarian must advocate the immediate attainment of liberty and abolition of statism, and if gradualism in theory is contradictory to this overriding end, what further strategic stance may a libertarian take in today’s world?  Must he necessarily confine himself to advocating immediate abolition?  Are “transitional demands,” steps toward liberty in practice, necessarily illegitimate? No…

How, then, can we know whether any halfway measure or transitional demand should be hailed as a step forward or condemned as an opportunistic betrayal?  There are two vitally important criteria for answering this crucial question: (1) that, whatever the transitional demands, the ultimate end of liberty be always held aloft as the desired goal; and (2) that no steps or means ever explicitly or implicitly contradict the ultimate goal.

While I have not read the book in some time, to my recollection (and a quick look at the chapter titles), what Rothbard had in focus was the political and economic: education, welfare, inflation, streets, police, courts, etc.  I suggest something else – you may consider it an alternative; I consider it complimentary, as I don’t preclude any path toward increased liberty and decreased state.

Decentralization

It was from Ryan McMaken where I first heard the phrase (and I may be paraphrasing his original words; if so, mine are better): libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice.  It was one of those phrases that I immediately recognized as succinctly capturing an idea that I was unable to put into words. 

Libertarianism in practice is nothing if not allowing each individual (though I would say family) to have ever-increasing choices about the politics and law that they might live under, the social fabric in which they choose to live (and the social fabric that acts as a source for and defense of the chosen politics and law). 

Libertarianism in practice is most definitely not one law and society for all of humanity – yet this seems to be in the sights of many libertarians.  Anyone who advocates this is both an immature utopian and an advocate (knowingly or unknowingly) of tyranny.  To believe that seven billion people around the world want to live within a system of politics, law, culture and tradition as derived by some pimply-faced kid in front of a keyboard in his mom’s basement is to call for a Stalin to rescue humanity from its sin.

Regarding decentralization, libertarians in the west have great news on this front: there are countless such movements throughout Europe and America pointing exactly in this direction.  The National Front in France, the Northern League in Italy, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and the UK Independence Party, the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, Brexit in Europe and, of course, Trump in the United States.  There are countless secessionist movements, Catalonia being one of the more well-known examples. 

There are many – and varied – reasons behind these movements, but perhaps they can be summarized via concerns of globalist and elitist economic policies, massively subsidized immigration, and unending war.  The people are making a statement: we want less of this; we want to stop being controlled by Brussels, NATO, Washington, New York and London.  We want less of the various international crony deals and agreements.

Of course, not all libertarians see this push for decentralization as good news.  It seems to be because they do not approve of the choices made by others regarding their own governance – in other words, they believe that they have the answer for everyone else’s liberty.  Kind of like Karl Marx.

If they so favor the individual as sovereign – as many of them do (and I do not, at least not in the same meaning) – how do they expect to get to seven billion sovereign “nations” without first getting past the two hundred or so we have today?  So I say support this secession and then support the next one and then the one after that: we even have an example of this today, with Scotland considering an exit from the UK given Brexit.  I say support them all.

I don’t get it: how does support of state, international, and supranational organizations, plans, and agreements help achieve this seven-billion-individual sovereignty?  It doesn’t.  Which suggests that libertarians opposed to these movements are either naïve or are working toward an end different than your liberty.