Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Problem Presented by Principle

I want to expand a bit on comments made in my recent post “Some Libertarians are Not Nice People.”

The initial comment:

Anonymous March 16, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Call me cynical but if this isn't the beginning of an attempted purge then what is? Won't be too long until the Tuckers, the Reisenwitzes, the Milequetoastarians and Technocrats start marginalizing and disavowing those who don't toe the line of the culture-warring left.

(Edited for spelling.)

bionic mosquito March 16, 2014 at 6:28 PM

It is not the beginning of a purge, it is the continuation of the (attempted) purge of Rothbard with a tangential chapter being the (attempted) purge of Ron Paul.

I cannot recount all of the details regarding the purge and shunning of Rothbard, however the story of the break between him and Cato is fairly well known; additionally, even today, while there is finally – with reluctance – at least some recognition of Mises even in the mainstream (Hayek was always the safe Austrian), Rothbard is still all but ignored by virtually every near-libertarian organization.

As to Ron Paul, it seemed to me the attempted purge began almost immediately around the time he conceded his run for president two years ago – even at the time Rand endorsed Romney.  Various near-libertarians (or those who travel in intersecting circles) started the process of subtly (and not so subtly) distancing themselves from Ron.  I have previously documented several of these; I will not revisit this here.

Back to the comments from my earlier post, continuing the dialogue:

Anonymous March 19, 2014 at 5:49 AM

6:09 AM Anon here.

Sorry if I misconstrued this. The treatment both Rothbard and Paul receive in the "movement" has irked me for some time now, especially the tendency to negate their achievements and portray them as a bunch of delusional loons.

So the questions to ask would be why and who, correct?

(Edited for spelling.)

bionic mosquito March 19, 2014 at 7:08 AM

I can only speculate:

Why? Because the two stand for principle over acceptance.

What was the principle?  In Rothbard’s case, it was the non-aggression principle, to be applied in all circumstances and to all actors both with and without badges.  While one might debate certain conclusions reached by Rothbard, I don’t believe one can demonstrate that he reached such conclusions because he compromised with the principled objective – a world absent the initiation of force.

In Ron Paul’s case?  While I speculate that deep down inside, Ron Paul is probably in complete agreement with Rothbard regarding libertarian political philosophy, while in political office he stuck to an absolutely conservative reading of the Constitution – consistent, he believed, with the most conservative intent of the most conservative framers.

As for the desire for acceptance, C.S. Lewis gave a wonderful speech on the Inner Ring.  It is worth reading if you are not familiar with it.  Neither Ron Paul nor Murray Rothbard ever showed an ounce of desire for acceptance over principle.

Continuing with my reply:

I imagine there is plenty of psychological thought as to why less principled people who want to be seen as principled react strongly when faced with principle.

I have no idea why Tucker wrote what he wrote regarding principled libertarians.  I have no idea why those who shun or otherwise distance themselves from a principled libertarian position do so.  In other words, I don’t know their thinking.

What is clear is behavior, as demonstrated in their words.  They speak as if change can come without somebody somewhere holding to principle; they believe change can come via an uneducated population.  They believe (or want to convince others to believe) that they can hit the target without aiming for the bulls-eye.

Who? The less principled who want to be accepted into respectable society - whether for political, financial, or other gain.

Both Rothbard and Ron Paul are reminders of principle.  Such reminders are not welcomed by those seeking acceptance.

There is a range of acceptable dialogue within mainstream society.  Politics, the mainstream press, and the business community all exist within this dialogue.  It is acceptable to debate tax policy, but don’t question the legitimacy of taxation; it is acceptable to question Fed policy, but don’t question central banking; it is becoming marginally acceptable to question the Iraq war, but don’t question the right for America to go to war at anytime and anyplace (although this seems to be shifting, thank God). 

Rothbard questioned these; Ron Paul questions these.  To be accepted in polite society, individuals must distance themselves from such questions.

I will return to the reason I began this post – a comment to my brief post in response to Tucker’s now infamous (within our circles) brutalist vs. humanist article.  In his article, I see Tucker fighting, for whatever his reasons, against those who are principled. 

I have no idea to whom he is referring (and I haven’t seen anywhere where he has identified the brutes).  I can think of a few who have a public voice, starting with Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul.  I can also add Hans Hoppe, Lew Rockwell, Walter Block, Tom Woods, and a few others.  I wish there were hundreds.

If we ever, at some distant decade or century in the future, come closer to some version of a libertarian society, it will be thanks to men such as these, and these will be the ones that are remembered – no one will remember the “milquetoasterians.”  If we never make such an improvement to life on earth, none of this will matter much anyway.

Such principled individuals should be thanked.  Among them are the most courageous people I know. 

In the world of political theories, the non-aggression principle is as close as it gets to the golden rule – a rule existent in numerous religions around the world and a rule as old as recorded history.

Without a consistent, principled worldview, all that is left is to make it up as we go along.

Now THAT is what I would call brutalism.


  1. I have nothing to offer in addition to this sentiment, except that I think it was so perfectly expressed.

  2. This furor over someone's article expressing an opinion about who he would prefer to associate with is more than a little irritating. If his distinction between "brutalist" and "humanitarian" is flimsy, well, it really doesn't matter, because there is no accounting for taste. He is expressing a personal opinion on human character. He does not deny that brutalist libertarians are still indeed libertarian. Nowhere anywhere in his writing have I seen any indication of him abandoning in any way the fundamentals, eg. NAP, right to property, right to discriminate, the indisputable rightness of the free market agora.

    He seems to see a distinction in motivations, he has a definite preference for one, and he would like to express it. All these assertions of a "purge" of Rothbard and Rockwell and Hoppe et al are just that. You are the one filling in the blanks with particulars. He explicitly states in a reply to a commenter that he does not number Rothbard and Hoppe among the "brutalist" ranks (two figures who suffer some of the worst hostilities by wretched slanderers). (And even IF that was the case, Tucker is certainly in no position to effect a real "purge" of someone of Rothbard's or Rockwell's (well deserved) awesome stature.)

    Based on many of my in-person interactions with some libertarians, I am compelled to relate to what he is talking about. On more than a couple of occasions I have had to roll my eyes and wipe my hands and move on never to return, because I simply don't have the patience to listen to even occasional outbursts on the "faggot agenda" and reflections on the inability of "lesser peoples" to understand and thrive under libertarian principles. (Note well, I do not include anyone of this blog, writers or commentators, in that group.)

    In other words, he isn't attacking you or your heroes (whom he happens to share anyway), nor is he attacking libertarianism qua libertarianism, so stop being so defensive.

    1. So he is attacking libertarians who also hold specific moral views? As I wrote in my first post, some libertarians are not nice people. All I did was save people 2300 words to find this out, as if we didn't already know. What does not being nice have to do with libertarianism? Why connect the two? Just say some people are not nice people. That would have saved 2340 words.

      Holding a view of non-aggression is also a moral view. Shall we see a new post about the brutality of this moral position?

    2. Well, because he wanted to write an article and talk about the topic at length, of course. People write all kinds of articles for a many different reasons for an infinity of kinds of readers. Its what writers do.
      Now assuming we agree on the lack of some kind of ulterior motive to "purge" at least Rothbard and Hoppe for certain in particular, if you felt that it was simply a pointless article, thousands of words too long, then why are you giving it so much weight? Why did you not simply pass it by without a waste of your efforts? Considering your Herculean research efforts and writing, this seems an odd nit to pick.

      This is what is confusing me. I just don't see why this is such a big deal.

    3. Less defensive James? I consider nearly everything that Jeffery Tucker has published to be a boon to mankind. Yet, the ultimate results of his efforts remain to be seen. I disagree completely with evictionism. Yet I consider Walter Block to be a rock solid (though inadvertent) ally, and one of the most powerful forces against the brutality and stupidity of the modern world. Personally I consider it immoral to pay taxes to the federal gov., because they are using your money to kill innocents, most of them unborn. If I ever get a real job again, that will mean that I am immoral, like the rest of you. But you won't find me yelling that at many cocktail parties.
      The gay rights movement obviously started as gays wanting to be treated as people. And just as obviously has been coopted by others for other agendas. Just as many others have been and will be twisted by statists of every stripe, and their plutocratic handlers.
      We can think of libertarians as enlightened, but that does not make it so. It certainly does not make them well informed, on every subject. Doesn't make them nice either.

    4. James, in my only post specifically regarding Tucker's article, I spent all of fifty words. This post was to expand on something from the comments from the first - yet even this post was one of my shorter ones.

      In any case, you need not concern yourself with how I spend my time.

  3. [My error for posting it as a reply to the anonymous commentator. It was intended as a new comment for the post.]

  4. Some are choosing to allow the compromise to occur, because at some point they understand that the reason that the principled ones will never win, lies not in them (the principled ones), but in the people that follow them.

    And such reason is one and the same with their nature, which is the lack of desire for perfection. (In most cases, even, it is just plainly the lack of desire for anything but only a shape devoid of any substance).

    If this can not ever be changed, not unless the weak are to be discarded at birth, so as to restart the natural selection, so, then why associate with someone who will never, ever succeed? If the reason for their failure is not within themselves, then there is no hope for their cause.

    The choice becomes then this: Win less now, or die waiting. This is the question most of us face everyday, even if we do not notice it.

    Bionic Mosquito, with all due respect, did you marry an earthly woman or an absolute perfection?

    1. mava.

      I could write 1000 words to address your several points. I have probably already written 100,000....

      I will only suggest the following:

      1) Libertarian = NAP, nothing more - but also nothing less.
      2) Interim steps are acceptable, as long as the ultimate objectives are kept in focus.
      3) List for me all of the people successful at rolling back the state through compromise. Identify the major rollbacks achieved by these individuals.
      4) You assume much when you state that I married a woman.