Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What Would You Do if…?

I return to Nelson Hultberg and his claim that “the primary philosophical thrusts of [Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard] are totally wrong for the cause of liberty.”

I have engaged in the dialogue at DB on this topic, raising one or two of the points from my commentary published here.  Hultberg does not bother addressing the points; I offer a summary of Hultberg’s subsequent comments.

As Hultberg is want to do, whenever he faces disagreement, he immediately makes the conversation personal (emphasis added):

·        Perceptive intellects today realize that the "freedom movement" in America and the West is not exactly winning the fight against statism…
·        If you are one of the salient minds who realize this could very well be true…
·        Those who condemn mere pieces of an Introduction without investigating the body of thought being introduced (which will validate the thoughts and assertions in the Introduction) are like the primitives in Africa…Their lives remained mired in ignorance and backwardness.

I guess mosquitos aren’t perceptive intellects, not possessive of salient minds, primitive, and are instead mired in ignorance and backwardness.

But this is only a minor issue relative to my main thought.  (Bold means I am screaming!)

What would you do if you had a slam-dunk, water-tight argument disproving both Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard? 

Think about this – you are so certain that you can pull these two off of the Mt. Rushmore of libertarian/free-market thinkers; they are so paramount, that they each take TWO spots on the Mt. Rushmore of libertarian thinkers, there is room for no one else. 

Between the two of them, they have sold millions of books, written thousands of articles and essays, and are viewed by millions as foundational to their thinking of individual liberty and freedom.

There are no two bigger titans within the world of libertarian thinking, and YOU HAVE THEM OVER A BARREL. 

If you are right and convincing, your name will be remembered for as long as anyone cares about liberty – in other words, FOREVER. 

If you are so certain that your path offers the best chance for freedom on this earth, wouldn’t you want everyone to have access to your thinking?

As I stated two days ago in this thread, I appreciate everyone's commentaries, even those in disagreement. But it must be pointed out that the above article is but a brief "Introduction" to the connection that the Doctrine of the Mean has to the fight for freedom in the West. My book answers all doubts and questions (many of which are expressed in this thread) as to the validity of the Aristotelian philosophical approach -- answers that could not possibly be explained in the brief space of this commentary section.

Buy the book, he reiterates often.  I will paraphrase: “I have such a revolutionary analysis that it will take down Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard; if followed, my recommendations offer the best path toward freedom on this earth.”

What would you do if you believed you had this formula?  Would you say “buy the book”?

Look, I have no problem with someone wanting to sell their work.  Do as you like.  But if I could take down Rand and Rothbard, I wouldn’t hide my secret behind a $20 book.

I would publish my thoughts in every outlet I could develop.  I would create videos, I would release excerpts – one chapter at a time or whatever.  I would take some of the more relevant works by Rothbard and Rand and do a line by line critique. 

I could do almost all of this for free, or for a very nominal cost, on the internet.  There are enough wealthy so-called libertarians that want to take down Rothbard that I bet I could get a few of them to sponsor my work.

I would make this my life’s work, my calling.  I would do it knowing that it is my legacy – I am convinced I am right.  I would do it on the expectation that I will convince enough people to invite me to conferences to speak and further spread the message.  My only desire would be to expose my message to as many people in as many ways as I can.

Rothbard got paid basically nothing for most of his work.  He wrote for an unknown audience, at a time when there was no internet and he certainly had no idea that everything he wrote would be available to everyone on the planet at some point in the future.  Talk about speaking to the remnant!  Today, Rothbard’s ideas carry the intellectual weight of the freedom movement.

I would copy Rothbard – except I now know of the technology that will spread my ideas far and wide – forever! 

If I was right, I will die with the knowledge that I will be remembered and honored forever – offering an invaluable service for mankind.

If I wasn’t so sure, I guess I might sell the book for $20.


  1. The taproot disagreement between Hultberg and ACers appears to be how each ideology views social organization and the presence or absence of a government role.

    According to Hultberg, ACers error is in divorcing the state conceptually from the citizens involved. To move away from the Rothbard/Rand debate for a moment, consider another popular ACer - Hans-Hermann Hoppe. He states, “Once you grant an institution the right to determine unilaterally how much you have to pay to be protected, this institution will have the tendency, by virtue of its self interest, to increase expenditures on protection while reducing that actual production of protection.”

    Hultberg says this is simply not so. The State is not an independent entity that acts according to whim and will expand endlessly divorced from the people's will. It expands only if the people who control it see that they can get more from life out of its expansion. But this will take place only if the people have the right of “progressive taxation.” If they all must pay a “proportional” tax of their income, then there is a natural limit to how much expansion they will tolerate. And that limit would be about 5%-6% of their incomes.

    Hultberg says the state is still the people. It is not some sort of entity that acts on its own. (Please don't pass that last sentence onto Rockwell or Higgs - we've got enough dogs in this fight.) In Hultberg's view, all ACers have to treat it as such because they must find a way to demonize the concept of government itself, because they have to find a way to justify the elimination of government itself. Once this sophistry is accepted in the ACer's mind, however, they must then blank out on human nature and maintain that war lords would not become dictatorial and run roughshod over people’s rights in whatever locality they had gained control. To Hultberg, this takes quite a bit of blanking out on history and human nature.

    1. I will take the blanking out by AnCaps over the blanking out by limited government types. History has proven a reasonably close AnCap model for 1000 years. History has proven a limited government model for zero seconds.

      But I have said all this.

  2. > History has proven a reasonably close AnCap model for 1000 years.

    It's my understanding the custom law period was not 1,000 years. It lasted for 500 years from 450 AD to 1000 AD. I don't think I would get an argument if I stated that the custom law period featured a horrendous society of primitiveness, criminality, and chaos.

    The 70 years of America from 1787 to 1857 were humanity's first attempt to achieve a society of "objective law." Just because we did not achieve it perfectly one could argue that we must decipher the errors we made and correct them. But to try and claim that the custom law period from 450 AD-1000 AD gave us "objective law" is flatly false. No reputable scholar agrees with such a claim. And even AnCap's godfather, Bruce Benson, admits that this period was only 500 years, not 1,000 years. He even uses the 450 AD-1000 AD time frame in his book, The Enterprise of Law : Justice Without the State.

    1. Not all regions of Europe evolved in the same timeframe. Germanic regions maintained a decentralized law regime beyond the time indicated.

      I have separately defined what I mean by objective law - reference my definition and I will gladly discuss it.

      As to primitive chaos, what do you expect for a society coming out of the destruction of Rome? What did that society build and achieve? Did progress only begin again in 1500? I have read many scholars that would disagree with your viewpoint. You can read my thoughts here:


      "Just because we did not achieve it perfectly one could argue that we must decipher the errors we made and correct them."

      One could say the same about Medieval law, and the world would be better for it.

      Finally, however you slice it, 500 is greater than 70.

  3. Who is Hultberg, anyway?
    His taxonomies of what he thinks are the Golden Means is a huge distortion of Aristotle
    Take justice. In the polis, there are two kinds, seemingly extremes, but that would be a Hultberg interpretation of the mean. In fact both kinds, the democratic and the oligarchic have to borrow parts of the others version of justice to make theirs work but most importantly, and this is Hultbergs biggest mistake, is that each idea of justice ignores what Aristotle considered the most important question of "who, or what, rules?",
    And Rule is not a thing to be made into an item on the mean excess recess chart as there are Rule in Anarchy, the anti government, anti society is what Rules, or the all government, all society in the non anarchy side is what Rules--it need not be a rule of peoples, institutions or individuals or noninstitutions, but there is something that
    and his other very post Machiavelli notion that there are no good or bad societies, just societies. Can there be a bad anarcho capitalist community, Aristotle would say yes, although the rhetorical
    shape shifters in the anarcho cap leaders would deny that the bad kind would truely be anarcho cap, despite any proofs to the contrary. There are according to Aristotle, good and bad men and communitirs, and the question of what is the good is searched for but not snswered, which led Machiavelli to dump the distinctions and declare that vice and virtue can be mixed, indeed, in Churhills ship of state metaphor, that the statesman has to move from port to starboard and back to keep it on an even keel, which, by the way, was recognized by Plato.
    So can there be a good communism? Marx thought so. But Rand and Rothbard did not brcause only a certain kind of liberty is good, their Ruling principle and they would never recognize the srguments of Marx, another non Aristotelian notion. Aristotle cautioned to take the partisan claims, that being hrere Marx, or indeed, Rand and Rothbard, and Hultberg, seriously before launching into an assault.

    1. "Can there be a bad anarcho capitalist community..."

      Yes; culture matters, what a community believes - beyond a principled application of the NAP - matters.

      There are many questions not answerable by application of the NAP. Answers to these questions are debated amongst libertarians, but often these answers can only be found outside of libertarian theory.

  4. > Finally, however you slice it, 500 is greater than 70.

    Do you believe that the definition of the "correct political system" ought to be validated by the length of time it has been practiced on earth? Five hundred years does not make "custom law" the ideal, nor would it make "objective law" the ideal. Reason, stability, peace, prosperity, progress, and freedom are the values that determine whether voluntary "custom law" or mandated "objective law" is the ideal legal form to base our society upon.

    Nowhere in history are there any accounts of the "custom law" period providing extensive stability, peace, prosperity, progress, and freedom for man. No legitimate scholar would utter such a claim. Freedom and objective law begin to take off in the 11th and 12th centuries of Europe, and they led from the Magna Carta in 1215 to John Locke's writings in the late 17th century to Jefferson's a 100 years later.

    Moreover, can you really correct a system of law if it flies in the face of human nature, which "custom law" does. This is why all the greatest scholars in history (led by Frederick Pollock and Frederic W. Maitland in their landmark two volume book, The History English Law) scorn the legal systems of the early MIddle Ages (450 AD - 1000 AD). There was no "objective law" prevalent at all. It wasn't until after 1000 AD that progress began to trickle into the European societies of the time. We could mark this period with the Magna Carta in 1215. It was the recognition that humans have rights that must be respected and protected by a uniform government of mandated "objective law." The warlord societies of the 450 AD-1000 AD period were not able to achieve this.

    Just trying to get a feeling for your custom law society you so readily wish to place in a time machine and transport to the present. After all, neither of us speak from direct experience, do we?

    1. “Do you believe that the definition of the "correct political system" ought to be validated by the length of time it has been practiced on earth?”

      Take it up with Hultberg, he is the one who insists to rely on experience (taken from his comments in the subject Daily Bell post):

      “As my essay above demonstrates, anarcho-capitalism doesn’t square with the Laws of Reason, i.e., the logic of Aristotle. In addition it was tried for over 500 years in Anglo-Saxon England during the “custom law” period (450 AD to 1000 AD) with catastrophic results (pp. 173-182). Thus both REASON and EXPERIENCE contradict the utopian irrationality of Rothbardian political thought.”

      Back to your comments: “Nowhere in history are there any accounts of the "custom law" period providing extensive stability, peace, prosperity, progress, and freedom for man.”

      I could throw the question you posed to me (and that I cite above) in response, but I won’t bother. You want a period of pure AnCap and iPhones? There isn’t one. You want to learn why you are wrong? I offered a link to you, offering reviews on commentaries from at least half-a-dozen scholars who contend otherwise. Take a deep breath and read before you keep insisting on this falsehood.

      “Just trying to get a feeling for your custom law society you so readily wish to place in a time machine and transport to the present.”

      I offered a link to you – your lips move and form words that say you want to get a feeling of my custom law society, yet your brain doesn’t translate your words into action.

      “After all, neither of us speak from direct experience, do we?”

      Every day, millions of people honor their contracts; every day, most decisions individuals make are made in a state of anarchy – they decide, then they do, without harming any third party.

      You are getting very repetitive. Please demonstrate that you have read something on the topic – as I have now suggested twice – and then comment, else I think we will only go in further circles. And I have grown quite dizzy.

  5. Hultberg's first fallacy is in associating Rothbard with Rand. Rothbard found Rand a ridiculous poseur. Setting her up as an icon of libertarian philosophy alongside Murray Rothbard is merely the first (and most basic) fallacy committed in his argument.

    Attack that, and anything else he tries to claim crumbles into dust.

    1. Many libertarians - even hard-core - would disagree with you on this point; not that Rand developed a full-fledged libertarian worldview, but that her writings started them on the road to this ultimate end.

      Rothbard is unique, having created from whole-cloth or otherwise synthesized into an identifiable whole this thing we call libertarianism.