Friday, September 6, 2013

Where is Murray Rothbard?

This one is over-the-top funny.  It strikes me as one more piece of evidence that the good guys are making headway.

I came across it thanks to a blog post by Mr. Rockwell.  It is a Bloomberg piece: “Libertarians Are the New Communists.”  If this is the best they can do, any home-schooled third grader could take them down.  Unfortunately, you will have to settle for me….

Most people would consider radical libertarianism and communism polar opposites: The first glorifies personal freedom. The second would obliterate it. Yet the ideologies are simply mirror images.

I am cautious about the word “glorifies.”  It sounds too religious in a mocking sort of way.  Perhaps that is the point.  In any case, if libertarians glorify anything, it would seem to me that it is the non-aggression principle.  You know, kind of like Jesus did….with no mocking at all intended, but complete humility.

Let’s start with some definitions. By radical libertarianism, we mean the ideology that holds that individual liberty trumps all other values.

I am not sure about trumping all other values….Really?

He goes on to list some of today’s “radical” libertarians: Ayn Rand fans, the Koch brothers, Senator Ted Cruz, and the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.  He throws in both Rand and Ron Paul as well. 

I will mention it once now so I don’t have to do so every time it comes up in this post: Only Ron can be described as libertarian philosophically, and none can be considered radical – certainly Ron Paul in his public positions was a completely consistent Constitutionalist, although he always pointed to the libertarian possibilities.  This was plenty good enough for me.  I will use shorthand whenever I have to make this point: the “Ron exception.”

Yes, liberty is a core American value, and an overweening state can be unhealthy. And there are plenty of self-described libertarians who have adopted the label mainly because they support same-sex marriage or decry government surveillance. These social libertarians aren’t the problem. It is the nihilist anti-state libertarians of the Koch-Cruz-Norquist-Paul (Ron and Rand alike) school who should worry us.

Interesting – they have no problem with libertine libertarians, only the ones who are opposed to the state….  Then they go on to list several who are not opposed to the state practically or philosophically….  (Ron exception)

Radical libertarianism assumes that humans are wired only to be selfish, when in fact cooperation is the height of human evolution.

Nonsense.  Libertarians understand cooperation better than most – voluntary cooperation.  They understand voluntary cooperation is the best means to ensure a civil society.

It assumes that societies are efficient mechanisms requiring no rules or enforcers, when, in fact, they are fragile ecosystems prone to collapse and easily overwhelmed by free-riders.

More nonsense.  Radical libertarians understand there needs to be enforcers; they expect the market is the best enforcer, as market actors have it in their best interest to enforce.

And it is fanatically rigid in its insistence on a single solution to every problem: Roll back the state!

Even more nonsense.  Rolling back the state isn’t the single solution to every problem.  It is only a necessary pre-condition to the parallel development of a voluntary society.  Individuals will cooperatively develop solutions to problems, as they do always and everywhere that the state doesn’t butt in.

What might radical libertarians do if they actually had power? A President Paul would rule by tantrum, shutting down the government in order to repeal laws already passed by Congress.

Why are the authors making stuff up?  Don’t they have Google?  They can look up what Ron Paul said he would do if elected – as well as the challenges he would face from Congress.  Close a few departments, stop the empire, introduce competition in money and banking. 

You want to see “rule by tantrum”?  Write an article about what a President McCain would do.  He has more in common with communists than any libertarian does.

Some libertarians will claim we are arguing against a straw man and that no serious adherent to their philosophy advocates the extreme positions we describe. The public record of extreme statements by the likes of Cruz, Norquist and the Pauls speaks for itself. Reasonable people debate how best to regulate or how government can most effectively do its work -- not whether to regulate at all or whether government should even exist.

But the authors are arguing against a straw man – and that they even pose the possibility in order to disagree only further suggests ignorance.  Well, if you are talking about actual libertarians, and not these non-libertarians (Ron exception)… libertarians do discuss how best to regulate and how to govern: voluntarily…like adults.  Not childishly, like the “spanker-in Chief.”  (I took that from a post at LRC – if I could remember the link, I would include it.  Sorry.)

True citizenship enables a society to thrive for precisely the reasons that communism and radical libertarianism cannot. It is based on a realistic conception of human nature that recognizes we must cooperate to be able compete at higher levels.

Libertarians have a “realistic” concept “of human nature.”  They realize that if you monopolize and make legal coercive power, sociopaths and psychopaths will be the ones who want to exercise it.  The authors might spend a few days to prove this wrong.

Libertarians do recognize the “we must cooperate.”  But isn’t coerced cooperation an oxymoron?

Finally, the authors demonstrate their complete ignorance on the subject: nowhere in the piece do they mention the most radical libertarian.  Where is Murray Rothbard?

At least today they write about us.  However, when they choose to attack Austrian economics, they refer to Hayek, virtually never to Mises; the day is soon coming when they will have to confront Rothbard on radical libertarian thought.

Thanks to the work of individuals like Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell, they are sooner to confronting that day.  Read the comments to the article if you don’t believe me. 


  1. "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

    Third stage, then. Loving it.

  2. BB: "Reasonable people debate how best to regulate or how government can most effectively do its work -- not whether to regulate at all or whether government should even exist."

    gpond: Ah, one of my favorite arguments (to denigrate) is the "reasonable man" argument that goes something like this:

    The best way to judge a position is to ask: what would a reasonable man think about this. And I just so happen to be a reasonable man…

    1. gpond

      Since finding TDB some of my relatives strictly limit the subject matter when speaking with me. A couple of them consider themselves libertarian. Neither of them has spoken to me since January 3rd. I don't think any of those consider me reasonable. taxes

    2. taxes, I have decided to do the same with several people: self-censor the discussion topics. When I would say something even slightly off-narrative, I would get a response that was only slightly less antagonistic than if I was stealing their first-born.

      So, I only talk about the weather, sports scores, etc. And I smile, I always smile.

    3. Thank-you taxes.

      I agree with you that it is no longer reasonable to speak of reasonable things with unreasonable people.

      Almost everyone I know is unreasonable in our meaning of the term.

      I haven't spoken reasonably to most people that I know in a very long time. Long before TDB made the scene. I speak reasonably in micro-movements only. Those micro-movements move toward, but do not entirely disclose, the direction in which my thinking is moving. To do otherwise, in our environment, is not advisable, it seems. Should I happen to encounter any brainwashed zombies along the way, god forbid, it would not seem to be the advisable option.