In response to UnhappyConservative April 30, 2016 at 4:57 PM
I write about libertarianism as theory and also the possibilities for libertarianism in practice. I write about theory (and can sometimes be biting in my defense of theory) because without a clear focus on the target, there is never hope to come close to hitting it. I write about practice because merely chanting “NAP, NAP, NAP” will not make such a society spring forth, nor will the chanting maintain such a society if we somehow happen to find one.
I believe, generally, that you and I hold similar views on the above.
We share the same enemy, the state, but not the state in the abstract, but in the particular- The American Federal Government.
I am currently of the opinion that libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice. I can read into your comment that we hold a similar view regarding this (and to deflate this false god, one reason I write so much about the lies and the evil perpetrated by this same American Federal Government).
There have been many examples in history of such decentralized political power; the one that I have written the most about is the European Middle Ages. Aspects of this period I find to be valuable models for libertarianism in a world populated by humans.
With this said, I will offer some thoughts on your further comments:
What I don't like is failing to recognize the need for a sovereign beyond individual property owners.
The law was sovereign (to the extent there was such a concept) during the Middle Ages. The law, generally, was relatively libertarian: it was the old and the good. It was not man-made, it was generally accepted custom. Further: what is your oath? You were bound to that which you swore an oath.
The king had one function – to uphold the law. He could not write the law – such a concept was outside the possibility of thought at that time and place. If those who swore oath to the king felt he was not properly upholding the law, any one of them could veto his decision. Of course this did not always happen without violence, but the violence was contained.
Of course, the law was only as effective as it had those to defend it. Today, we have little of the moral / ethical grounding that once made this an effective means of exercising sovereignty (this to your point, I believe). Perhaps it is most certainly true where political power is centralized and far less true where it is decentralized (this to my point).
In order to minimize the State as much a possible (as you would like) it would be necessary to have a strict process of selecting members for a society and having rules that non-members cannot own property.
Immigration and border control within a libertarian framework is almost impossible to envision in a world of state control of borders. Unfortunately, the state isn’t very good at it today. Or they are VERY good at it (getting what they want in much of Europe), which is even worse.
The best application of libertarian theory I can come up with in this world is one where the potential immigrant has some combination of a) a job offer or other means to pay his way in society, b) an offer for accommodation (rental agreement or purchase contract), and c) a letter of recommendation from one or more members of the community in good standing with an assurance that the immigrant will not be a burden to society.
This minimizes the state in the decision-making and maximizes decentralization within today’s context. This, perhaps, comes close to your requirements.
Speaking of decentralized power regarding immigration: the Swiss today offer a fine – and reasonably effective – example of this. Of course, decentralized political power has something (everything?) to do with this, I suppose. Can such a thing happen in the United States? The European Union?
We may be seeing the beginnings of decentralization – the visible signs are in societal demands for the decentralization of political power. The seeds of the centralized state’s destruction are sown – the signs are all around us.
What of people doing things on their property that should not be done at all? Molesting their children for instance. There is no way to justify an intervention into that situation without having something sovereign above property owners.
This is Wenzel’s interpretation of libertarian theory. It isn’t mine, and I am 100% certain that he is totally wrong in his application of the theory. For what it’s worth, real heavyweights on libertarian theory have weighed in against his cockamamie idea – Walter Block publicly, two others (whom anyone reading this blog will know quite well) to me privately.
While any individual is free to take the defense of the child in his own hands (and face consequences if others in the community felt his intervention unjustified), it is helpful that a society generally agrees on what is an aggression – let’s say, using your example, “molesting their children.” With this agreement, the child molester could be stopped by whatever force necessary (without legal risk) – even via trespassing on the child molester’s property. This, I find, is perfectly compatible with the NAP.
Is it because the person who has intervened is sovereign? No. It is because the community has deemed that there is a violation to the NAP. Their “customary” definition of “aggression” has been violated; it is not only the right, but the duty, for others in the community to intervene.
By the time you get to (7) it is beginning to look like a State, which is why I said above that a starting point like that would turn quickly into a minimal state serving the interests of the people.
Item 7 is not a state if I am free to take my business elsewhere (insurance companies, managers of homeowner’s associations, etc.). Fred Foldvary offers an analysis of many private applications of security and the like. We have functioning models of all of these today. If I am not free to take my business elsewhere, the agent will never stay minimal – at least not in a “state” of any size.
With all of this said, I find it difficult to imagine that libertarianism can flourish in a society without some generally accepted cultural conditions. I do not even say these cultural conditions have to be the same in all places for all people (although I do believe some cultural conditions offer better possibilities than do others); only that there is a generally accepted cultural norm within a group (community, tribe, nation…whatever you want to call it).
Which brings me to what I take away as the issue most important for you:
…the preconditions for a good society generally and what present trends we need to be aware of moving forward.
Preconditions…toward what? A more libertarian world. This is the reason I focus on libertarian theory – this is the “toward what” for me.
Maybe you are right about the necessity of such preconditions. I cannot see it as either / or. Either the NAP or proper culture is the precondition. I cannot say one must come before the other – perhaps it is the necessity of having two hands to wash the other. For this reason, I write about both.
Perhaps one way I might think about it...consider two societies: the first, libertine libertarian (in other words, anything goes – just don’t violate the NAP) with nothing to bind them to each other beyond the NAP; the second a society with common cultural ties – family and community focused – and a reasonably healthy (though not perfect) respect for private property.
In twenty years, which one is likely to remain relatively libertarian? Today, in which one would I rather live? I think the answer to both is the same.
As I have written before, events are driving toward decentralization in the West; events are driving toward a multi-polar world. Neither you nor I can control what happens next – the “preconditions,” so to speak. The “next” is coming, whatever we do. Again, perhaps this is why I write about both.
I appreciate the importance of your focus – this should be evident in the amount of writing I have devoted to culture, etc. – even before I knew you. I just cannot say that it is the only focus, or that it should be the first focus.
The virtually certain decentralization of the West can only be good for libertarianism – decentralization being the practical application of the theory.
The decentralization will offer choice. Some of these choices will be more libertarian than others. Some of these choices will have cultural norms more conducive to liberty than others.
As to libertarianism and the NAP: as I have written before, it is beautifully simple, and should not be burdened with the weight of the world. Do not initiate aggression – we need not ask more of it than this.
BM I really appreciate what you are doing here. This is by far the best place I have found to discuss these questions, I should have hopped in sooner. Thanks m8.
I have come to learn that you are someone who has given a lot of thought to these issues. I appreciate the feedback.