So asks Jordan Peterson. In response, he offers food for thought:
The probability that it’s the friendliest and nicest people is very, very low.
I suggest that what he is saying is that the probability that it’s the meanest and nastiest people is very, very high.
Hans Hoppe weighs in on this topic: Why Bad Men Rule:
Free entry and competition in the production of goods is good, but free competition in the production of bads is not. Free entry into the business of torturing and killing innocents, or free competition in counterfeiting or swindling, for instance, is not good; it is worse than bad.
To this we could add Hayek’s well-known chapter from his book Road to Serfdom, Why the Worst Get on Top.
Libertarian political philosophy offers, perhaps, the fewest rules of any political philosophy devised by man. Really, it offers only one rule: do not initiate aggression. I guess the only way to have fewer rules is to offer no rule at all regarding aggression – but then you would have no political philosophy. We need not concern ourselves with this absurdity.
In other words, libertarian political philosophy comes closest to the condition described by Peterson: there are no rules. Therefore, his question is very appropriate for those grounded in libertarian theory to address: in such a condition, who leads? Who makes the rules?
Many libertarians would answer: no one. Each individual is an autonomous economic actor, to be bound only by voluntary contractual agreements. This sound good in theory.
I have often posed the question: when has [insert any utopian political scheme] worked out well in practice? Limited government, communism, fascism, democratic socialism, etc. Show me when some men ruling over other men under any of these schemes has worked out well for those not in the ruling class. A fair question.
I suggest another fair question: has there ever been a meaningful (I will even accept “minor”) example of a society ruled by no one? While I acknowledge that I am no scholar in such matters, in all of my reading the most decentralized societies I have found still have rulers: patriarchs in tribes, nobles in the European Middle Ages, etc.
My point? As I have written too often, when we consider the application of libertarian theory in this world, we should consider that human beings live in it. Never in recorded human history, to my understanding, has there been a meaningful, sustained period of “no ruler.”
“Yes, bionic, but pure libertarianism has never been tried.” Of course. Apologists for communism would say the same thing. Maybe that’s the point. It hasn’t been “tried” because human nature disallows it from being tried. Given human nature, why would we expect such a utopian outcome?
I return to the basis of libertarian theory: the non-aggression principle. Even in this least-rule-bound political theory, there are many open questions subject to interpretation. I will offer two:
Define “aggression”; define “property.”
I can say with 100% certainty there will never be universally accepted definitions of either of these terms – even the most dedicated libertarian thinkers cannot agree on the meaning of these terms regarding many topics: abortion, immigration, intellectual property, punishment, restitution, threats, fraud, etc. How would we expect mankind as a whole (heck, even you and your immediate neighbors) to have total agreement on these?
So…who will decide? Who will make the rules? Who will provide the definitions?
I have offered my answer: culture; custom; the old and good law. Something no one individual can overcome; something no one individual can overrule or erase.
Do you have a better answer? Because, if you don’t, go back and read Hoppe and Hayek. That’s your answer. You choose to be ruled by men, and you choose to be ruled by the worst of these.
Absent a well-defined and widely accepted culture there is no hope of moving toward a libertarian world. Such a culture is not a sufficient condition (as not all cultures are conducive to libertarianism), but it is certainly a necessary condition.