Against the Left: A Rothbardian Libertarianism, Lew Rockwell
Rockwell offers six chapters, expanding on the damage to liberty being done by the left. He opens with The Assault on the Family; by “family, the assault is on the traditional family – “the hallmark of civilization.”
In order to maintain a free society, it is essential that the traditional family, i.e. the union of one man and one woman in marriage, in most cases to raise a family, be preserved.
Consider how that one sentence runs completely contrary not only to the objectives of the left, but also places a dent in the application of the thinnest of thin libertarianism – where “liberty” is defined as “anything peaceful.” Anything peaceful is libertarianism for juveniles; if you want liberty, you have to consider society, culture, secondary consequences and the like.
I recall the joy many left-libertarians expressed when the state made gay marriage “legal.” Rockwell is suggesting that there is nothing at all “libertarian” about such events. “How can this be?” you might ask. Rockwell answers the question:
Libertarianism is the theory of what people’s rights should be. It rules out the state; and, to the unfortunate extent the state exists, libertarians hold that the state should, to the greatest extent possible, refrain from violating people’s rights. Beyond this, libertarianism mandates nothing to the state. Libertarians don’t have to hold that the state must grant marriage licenses to couples of the same sex.
Rockwell cites Rothbard, furthering this point:
Since, according to libertarian theory, there should be no government property since it is all derived from coercion, how does any principle whatever of government property use follow from libertarian theory? The answer is, it doesn’t. on the question of what to do with government property, libertarians, apart from calling for privatization, are set adrift, I short, with nothing but their common sense and their attunement to the real world, of which libertarians have always been in notoriously short supply.
I have written about a million words trying to make the same point (especially that last part about most libertarians lacking common sense and an attunement to the real world), and here Rothbard makes the point in eighty words.
Following this are sections devoted to feminism, anti-Semitism, so-called Civil Rights, racism, discrimination, and equality. The state uses all such distinctions to further state power, yet many libertarians either praise such movements as “liberating,” or defend the libertarian position by suggesting that we all have the liberty to “be a jerk.” Rockwell calls such views “extremely short-sighted and most unfortunate.”
If we want to be free, therefore, we must shun the State, its methods, and its language.
Rockwell devotes a chapter to Immigration. He calls out those who believe that the only correct libertarian position on immigration must be open borders. He offers the concept of freedom of speech to help make the point: there is no freedom of speech to be derived from the non-aggression principle; one can manage or control speech on his property. In other words, libertarianism grounds this issue of speech in property rights.
The same holds for freedom of movement. There is no such concept – all movement is managed by the property owner. If all property was privately owned, the answer to this question of immigration (we wouldn’t even call it such) would be self-evident: there would be no such thing as free movement. Every movement would be controlled or managed by the property owner. This is the exact opposite of open borders.
But we do not live in a world of 100% private property – we have significant state property, we have significant regulation by the state on private property, and – of course – we have state borders. Hence, every decision about immigration, movement, and access is a state decision – managed and controlled by the state. There is no libertarian answer in a world of states. Period.
But what of the government-controlled land: surely immigrants – or anyone – would be free under libertarian theory to move onto government-controlled land. But this also represents an invalid assumption: while government might control the land, we must ask: who is the owner?
And the answer here is obviously simple: the taxpayers own it, as it is taxpayer funds that have been used to acquire, manage, secure, regulate, and improve such land. In other words, there is no such thing as open, virgin, un-owned territory – at least not in the regions where virtually everyone would choose to live.
Like all state action, this topic is one that the state will always use to the advantage of the state – to change demographics and voting, to allow labor movement in support of state-favored industry, etc.
Citing Rothbard on what drives the left:
…the hallmark and the fanatical drive of the left for these past centuries has been in devoting tireless energy to bringing about, as rapidly as they can, their own egalitarian, collectivist version of a Kingdom of God on Earth.
Utopians of the world, unite! Paul VanderKlay has offered: when you try to bring heaven down to earth, you bring hell up with it. The leftists might be wishing for heaven, but we are seeing the hell.
This should be concerning, especially for libertarians. As Rockwell notes, however (and as Rothbard made clear), when it comes to having common sense and an attunement to the real world, libertarians have always held a notoriously short supply. I will cover more of Rockwell’s views along these lines in a subsequent post.