Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Children Come out to Play

I am not referring to chronological age….

A couple of years ago, I commented on an interview by Alexander McCobin at The Daily Bell.  He is the Executive Director of Students for Liberty (SFL).  I will not rehash the entire interview; I conclude as follows, reflecting on his statement that “This is the most libertarian generation that has ever existed….”:

If this represents the greatest libertarian generation in history, you can have it.

I only bring this up because I now come across another SFL colleague, a Cory Massimino:

Cory the Gret@CoryMassimino: Your daily dose of individualist anarchism, virtue ethics, Austrian economics, and punk rock.

Cory the Great.  I’m glad he warned me.

Why bother with a self-absorbed member of “the most libertarian generation that has ever existed”?  I guess just because it will be fun.  Plus, as I will explain later, there is absolutely no reason to take Cory seriously.  You will notice that I don’t.  this makes it even more fun.

He has written a response to Lew Rockwell’s post, “What Libertarianism Is, and Isn’t.”  Little Cory’s is entitled “Libertarianism is More than Anti-Statism.”  Let’s gather a few pearls of youthful wisdom together, shall we?

There is a growing division among libertarians regarding the relationship between our fervent commitment to anti-statism and other principles we might hold regarding social and cultural issues.

I didn’t realize that libertarianism as libertarianism held this as a distinction.  I have noted a curious tendency lately to create this narrative, however.

This distinction is a false dichotomy, though.

I am glad Cory the magnificent agrees; but I suspect I will be proven wrong.

Put simply, libertarians are for one overriding principle: liberty.

While liberty is a result, technically this isn’t what libertarians as libertarians are for.  Libertarians concern themselves with one question.  When is violence or aggression justified?  From this, liberty flows.  Yet, from faulty premises (to say nothing of faulty definitions) come faulty conclusions:

This principle applies to situations involving the state and situations that don’t. Being concerned about non-state injustices in addition to state created ones strengthens our commitment to liberty. It means libertarianism is about more than anti-statism.

Oh boy, here we go.  Liberty means being free from non-state injustices.

Cory the great takes umbrage at Mr. Rockwell’s definition of libertarianism:

Mr. Rockwell argues, “Libertarianism is concerned with the use of violence in society. That is all. It is not anything else.”

Any concern for social and cultural issues beyond this is merely a person’s preferences that have nothing to do with their libertarianism.

Suffice it to say, I tend to agree with Rockwell’s view on this.  Let’s see if the great one can convince me otherwise:

I don’t believe this is the case. My aligning myself with the ideas of feminism, anti-racism, gay and trans liberation, and worker empowerment is an outgrowth of my libertarianism.

It may be an outgrowth, my young, enormous eminence; but is it an inherent feature of libertarianism?  Come on, King Cory, let’s get to it.  Write something convincing.

The reason I concern myself with violations of peoples’ liberty that don’t owe their origin to the state is explained by Rockwell when he writes, “Our position is not merely that the state is a moral evil, but that human liberty is a tremendous moral good.” Exactly! I am against authoritarianism, domination, and believe in equality of authority.

This is interesting.  I guess Cory never held a job.  Or had a dad….  I wonder if he has ever had a landlord.

It gets better.  Cory understands Rothbard better than Rockwell does:

Rockwell quotes Mr. Libertarian himself, Murray Rothbard, to support his undecorated libertarian position. Rothbard writes, “Libertarianism does not offer a way of life; it offers liberty, so that each person is free to adopt and act upon his own values and moral principles.” I believe the true implications of what Rothbard is saying here supports the idea of a broad view of libertarianism, as opposed to Rockwell’s view.

Look, Rockwell may be wrong, and Rothbard may be wrong, and Rockwell might be wrong about Rothbard (that should pretty much cover it).  But I’m willing to take a wager that Lew, better than anyone else on this planet, understands Murray’s implications (maybe different on Planet Cory?).  Besides, how many different ways can one interpret “Libertarianism does not offer a way of life”?

Rothbard’s argument shows how liberty is needed for each person to find their own purpose and achieve their own good. This goes beyond the actions of the state. Repressive cultural norms and domineering social customs also prevent people from flourishing…. A black person can’t flourish if he lives in a staunchly racist community with employers and businesses who refuse him service.

Here we go with racism again.  It is easier to take this kind of comment more seriously if someone like, oh, Sheldon Richman writes it, as opposed to when it comes from a self-proclaimed tremendous nobleness.  I will still disagree, and for the same reasons; it’s just easier to take seriously.

But I will try.  Oh immense, exalted Cory: please reconcile the non-aggression principle with the suppression of “Repressive cultural norms and domineering social customs” for which you don’t approve.  I suggest one must be subservient to the other.  Demonstrate that this is not so, and that they can both hold equal status in a libertarian society.

I have yet to find a means consistent with the non-aggression principle to do much of anything about it – beyond organizing a voluntary boycott of the racists.  Hopefully his magnificent munificence can enlighten me on this matter.

(NB: I feel the obligatory need to state that I do not approve of racism as suggested in this example.)

Rothbard continues, “Libertarians agree with Lord Acton that “liberty is the highest political end” – not necessarily the highest end on everyone’s personal scale of values.” While this is an excellent quote by Lord Action, it doesn’t go far enough. Why would liberty only be relevant in the political sphere?

And what, young prince, do you suggest to do about it when you see it in private spheres?  (Don’t worry, little king, this isn’t a new question; just a restatement of my last one.  I wouldn’t want to overly tax – in the non-state sense – an up and coming member of the greatest generation too much.)

Showing concern for authoritarian social relationships outside the purview of the state is merely fully fleshing out our core principles of autonomy and freedom.

Go ahead, gigantous Corysimous, fully flesh away: tell your boss you are going to be gone for lunch as long as you like.  Let the landlord know that she will get the check…whenever.  Spread those autonomous wings against the weight of “authoritarian social relationships outside the purview of the state.”  Have a field day.

Well, perhaps youthful Cory doesn’t mean all authoritarian social relationships.  Just the ones he is speaking of.  That should clarify it.

Forgive the length of the following cite; I promise it is the last one.

We support self-sovereignty, individual autonomy, and personal freedom. These are the bedrocks of our philosophical ideas: the pizza crust. Opposing statism, political tyranny, and centralized force and supporting civil liberties, free markets, and non-interventionism are one set of conclusions we must embrace: the tomato sauce. But this hardly the whole story. Our foundations also mean opposing cultural repression, societal intolerance, and authoritarian relationships and supporting feminism, gay and trans liberation, anti-racism, and worker empowerment, which are the other set of conclusions we must embrace: the cheese. Combined, all these things make up a large, delicious, beautiful pizza known as libertarianism.

Young collegiate Cory, obviously more knowledgeable about pizza than he is libertarian thought.  I will only comment on the cheese.  Suffice it to say, his eminence Cory, with his irrelevant requirements, has pretty much excluded 99.9% of the world from ever even considering the concept of libertarianism.  Talk about a small tent.

You think I am being a little too disrespectful of a poor, misguided lad?  Don’t worry, Cory doesn’t take himself seriously, and neither should the rest of us.  Don’t believe me?

Cory the Gret ‏@CoryMassimino  · Apr 4 
@KevinCarson1 that's my only concern. I don't even believe in what I write. I just aim to be controversial.

Tighten your aim, SFS colleague Cory.  To be controversial, it helps to at least understand your subject.


  1. “”””We support self-sovereignty, individual autonomy, and personal freedom.””’’ as long as these individuals think and act like Cory Massimino

  2. Man, one of the things that really annoy me is disregard for the meaning of words. Communication can be difficult enough without people appropriating and reinventing terms.

    Possibly the single greatest thing about libertarianism is its simplicity and objectivity (no pun intended), its explicit lack of any imperative of how one should live his private life. The corollary being that each person must find his own meaning and purpose (which does go beyond strictly political theory). As Rothbard very clearly wrote.

    Well, if US history has shown anything, it's that words alone are no defense against men who want to have their way no matter what. I guess the likes of Cory deserve, nay, NEED to be smacked around by more sensible people, lest they get away with establishing themselves as legitimate.

  3. "Man, one of the things that really annoy me is disregard for the meaning of words." Ditto. As Confucius said some 25 centuries ago, when asked what would be the first thing he would do if he were given the governance of a state: "It would certainly be to correct the language. … If the language is incorrect, then what is said is not in accord with the truth, and if what is said is not in accord with the truth, affairs cannot be carried on to success. … In his use of language, the gentleman is careful in every respect." (Analects XIII:3) Of course, this "Great One", being a partisan of eekwality, may not agree with the concept of "gentleman" (Ch. 君子, "son of a prince", the "superior man" of the I Ching)—except, of course, in his own self-regard. "Progressives" always know what is best for everyone.

    This fellow's pretzel logic reminds me of how some like to present the Golden Rule in positive, rather than negative, terms, i.e. "Do unto others" rather than "Do not do unto others…." The distinction is vital, as the "positive" version always leads to something like, "If I were not a Christian, I would want to be (for my own good), therefore it's okay for someone to force me to become Christian—and for me to force someone, for their own good." The road to hell….

    Present a good idea to the world, and someone will always appear who wants to co-opt the idea in the service of his own agenda, rather than place himself in service to the idea. "Progressives" across the political spectrum (neocons are also progressives, out to change the world for everyone's benefit) are very good at this.

  4. PS: "...pretty much excluded 99.9% of the world from ever even considering the concept of libertarianism."

    Actually, I would disagree with this conclusion. This is precisely the version of "libertarianism" that might very well appeal to many: a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too libertarianism which allows one to congratulate oneself on being a partisan of liberty and an opponent of the initiation of force (both Good Things), while still retaining the option of the latter when it's done for the Greater Good. A perfect example of the rationalization hamster in full spin.

    1. Libertarian philosophy does not preclude the latter. But inclusion of the latter as a requirement of libertarian philosophy - besides being logically inconsistent - will shrink the number of candidates.

    2. Libertarian philosophy does not preclude the initiation of force? Where does that leave the Non-Aggression Pledge? Or maybe my wording was unclear: I meant reserving the option of initiating force when it's done for the Greater Good, e.g. "supporting feminism, gay and trans liberation," etc. Like I said, have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too libertarianism.

      When I first discovered libertarianism some 30+ years ago, I really liked the idea that all matters of social/political/economic concern could be reduced to one simple question of principle: Is force involved/required, or not? I like simplicity. Or, as I like to say, What is the difference between love and rape? One word. Even a "young liberal female" should be able to figure that out.

      A PPS to my post above: And of course, one can also then congratulate oneself on being a Hard-Headed Realist (instead of a starry-eyed, mushy-headed idealist), also a Good Thing. Hey, can't lose! What's not to like about this reformed, compassionate Neolibertarianism?

      Btw, I've very much enjoyed your recent articles at LRC. Plus ça change….

  5. I come across this line of thinking a lot with aggressively secular libertarians. They just can't stand the fact that some of us libertarians embrace an external authority, no matter how freely we do it.

    What do they propose, exactly? Point a gun to our heads and make us recant? To force us to be free?

    The Jacobins and Bolsheviks were likewise motivated by the desire to force others to be free. I discuss the subject of cultural and religious "domination" at *The Last Ditch*, if anyone is interested:

    1. "I come across this line of thinking a lot with aggressively secular libertarians."

      No you did not. They are not libertarians. They are low-tax/no-tax liberals. I myself am a secular libertarian, have no use for an "external authority" (i.e. a deity), and "bleeding heart libertarians" disgust me because they are liberals who think not being aggressively anti-free market makes them libertarian, as if the market being free or not makes the distinction.

      They contradict themselves at every turn. Think that a proper "libertarianism" would be live-and-let-live yet have no tolerance for those who think differently than they do. Believe in freedom of conscience and lifestyle yet reject all conscience and lifestyle they find disagreeable (such as that which voluntarily accepts cultural authority). Believe in the non-aggression principle yet obviously cannot stand freedom of association.

      These so-called "libertarians" have brought with them all the logical contradictions and hypocrisies that fuel their - in actuality - liberal thinking.

  6. If Cory Massimino actually took the time to read any of Rothbard's writings on pop culture, he would realize that Rothbard was actually quite conservative in his cultural views. For example, during the Clinton years, Murray actually wrote articles against allowing gays in the military. He constantly complained about what he called the "gayization and feminization" of society as well. He also believed that there shouldn't be any anti-discrimination laws. On many occasions, Rothbard actually referred to the concepts of "gay rights", "womens rights", etc. as "made-up rights". Of course, none of these views makes him less libertarian. Massiminio's article proves that he hasn't actually read any of Rothbard's works.

  7. I also wrote a response to Cory Massimino's article on my blog:

  8. I'll take a racist, anti-gay, culturally oppressed individual any day, as long as he consistently follows NAP, in preference to a fake libertarian who is so "caring" that he can rationalize forcing his opinions on others.

    Of course verbal sparring with racists et. al. remains perfectly acceptable. However, there may be times and places where it is not prudent; self preservation remains a consideration! Sometimes it is unclear when guys like Cory speak, if they are talking about war, or merely condemnation, of such attitudes. Tolerance, in the old meaning of the word (suffering others to exist) is the key. It doesn't mean you have to respect or approve of every pile of crap in the world.

    It is possible to be panarchist without being anarchist, but the reverse is impossible: