Friday, March 28, 2014

Holists and Halfists

Well, not exactly. 

Max Borders has written a column at FEE, “Libertarian Holism.”  In it, he introduces a new language to describe the holders of different views of libertarian / pseudo-libertarian thought:

I hesitate to introduce yet another dichotomy (thick or thin, brutalist or humanitarian)…

Yet he does so: holists and solipsists.

The masters of persuasion are libertarian holists.

A holist is one who accepts that different individuals come to libertarian thought in different manners; this is something no one can disagree with, I imagine.  More so, a holist is skilled at effectively communicating with all such comers.  A great skill, useful in all areas of life.

…the other end of the continuum from the holist is the solipsist. This person is content in the echo chamber, sometimes even being alone with his principles.

Once again, as I did in my post regarding libertarian humans and brutes, I won’t spend much time or spend too many words on this one.  I offer only a couple of observations:

Borders first identifies the group that comes to accept libertarian thought through first principles, “like a principle of non-harm.” 

I assume he means non-aggression; why he chooses to invent a term for this well-known phrase is…confusing?  A search of the two phrases yields over 13,000 hits for NAP, and about 30 for NHP.  Is Borders trying to hide something?

He then identifies other paths through which individuals have come to accept libertarian thought: “personal or emotional values,” “through talk of being excellent and/or realizing one’s concept of happiness,” “Buddhist writings,” or “Limbictarianism” 

Borders identifies that the starting point for many is the understanding and acceptance of the principle of non-aggression.  However, nowhere in his post does he suggest that – no matter how someone comes into the libertarian fold in the first place – to be libertarian, one must certainly eventually land on the non-aggression-principle square.

This is the root of libertarian principle.  Without pointing to it always, there is no libertarian – there is just my opinion is better than your opinion.


However we might admire the first quarter of Mises’s Human Action, we can pretty safely admit that reading it is not the only starting point.

He is referring to the point of view of the solipsist. 

You want a real solipsist?  Try Rothbard.  More principled that Mises and easier to read.   Except his is the name that cannot be mentioned, even when writing posts that, as Borders suggests “Most who read this publication self-identify as a freedom-lovers.”

Hayek is easy for the insider-libertarians to present.  Mises is, thankfully, growing more so (there is little choice, thanks to the power of the internet).  Eventually they will have to admit that Rothbard exists, and that without a principled position on non-aggression, there is no such thing as a libertarian.

I know principle is tough, but without it libertarian philosophy will be just one more political philosophy that makes it up as it goes along.

What is the point of that?


  1. I do believe that more people reading Rothbard would do more for the world than any other author now. Though many who would recommend him, are right up there. I think we owe as much to Rockwell.

    1. If not for LRC / LvMI, where would the online presence of Rothbard be found?

      Mr. Rockwell has done an invaluable service - not solely regarding Austrian economics and libertarian thought generally, but specifically in providing the world with online access to Rothbard.