As you know, occasionally I write a rambling post – a post where I am just putting a bunch of things out there, trying to make some sense of my thoughts. Of course – to varying degrees – I guess all of my posts are like this. Let’s just say this one is at the far left tail of the bell curve – a bell curve with a very long left tail.
Let Me Take You Back to Where it All Began
- California Nights, Neal Morse, Testimony
I have been thinking about this post for a month. Even after a month, I really don’t know what to do with it. So let’s just start at the beginning. Walter Block wrote a blog post at LRC; the important part is to be found in the title: “Converting the Heathen to the One True Faith: Libertarianism…”
The details of the post are unimportant; the part I could not let go of is the “one true faith” part. Regular – and careful – readers will note that I have taken a shot at this idea two or three times in the last few weeks.
I have many reasons why I have poked at this phrase, reasons that I will explore by stumbling through this post. One of these reasons is all of the undefendable things that libertarianism defends. From the chapter titles of Walter Block’s book, Defending the Undefendable, we find the following defended by this theory regarding the appropriate use of aggression:
The Prostitute, The Pimp, The Male Chauvinist Pig, The Drug Pusher, The Drug Addict, The Blackmailer, The Slanderer and Libeler, The Denier of Academic Freedom, The Advertiser, The Person Who Yells “Fire!” in a Crowded Theater, The Gypsy Cab Driver, The Ticket, The Dishonest Cop, The (Nongovernment) Counterfeiter, The Miser, The Inheritor, The Moneylender, The Noncontributor to Charity, The Curmudgeon, The Slumlord, The Ghetto Merchant, The Speculator, The Importer, The Middleman, The Profiteer, The Stripminer, The Litterer, The Wastemakers, The Fat Capitalist-Pig Employer, The Scab, The Rate Buster, The Employer of Child Labor.
I have no doubt that Walter defends each of these with impeccable libertarian logic. Yet, I ask…Can one find “faith” in the future, any possibility of long-term adherence or success, in a society that adheres to these tenets?
I offer my thoughts on this question via the aforementioned Neal Morse:
I woke up in motel rooms under western skies
When I think of the things I did
On those party nights
It's only by the Grace of God that I'm still alive
I believe God's grace kept me alive
One can safely assume that “the things” Morse did involved regularly living several chapters of undefendable practices that are allowable under the NAP. Multiply this lifestyle by a few million people and imagine the liberty you will have as a result of those millions enjoying their liberty; imagine the long-term future – if not for you, for your children and grandchildren.
What is Faith?
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
If we leave it at this, I guess one can say that libertarianism is a faith; this does not automatically lead us to conclude that it is the one true faith.
The society I have found that has come closest to what one might describe as living under law that reasonably approaches law conforming to the non-aggression principle was the society of the European Middle Ages. It was a law that came not from man, but from custom and tradition; a law that was constantly refined to conform to the “old” and the “good”; it was a law that the king could enforce, but not create; it was a law that allowed any noble to veto the king’s decision, if the veto was based on the old and good law.
Most interesting: it was a law sworn to by oath, a three-party oath involving the two parties and God; it was a law that worked in a society grounded in the custom and tradition of the Church. If you prefer, you can say it was a law that worked in a society grounded in the custom and tradition of what worked well to support and sustain life; law that conformed to natural realities. Call that “good” law.
The Stages of Faith
What are the stages of faith?
James W. Fowler (1940–2015) proposes a series of stages of faith-development (or spiritual development) across the human life-span.
He offers six stages; for my purposes, I need only offer the first two:
Intuitive-Projective: a stage of confusion and of high impressionability through stories and rituals (pre-school period).
“A stage of confusion”: given the wide spread, and even contradictory demands, of what libertarian thinkers insist we must all accept if we are to be considered libertarian, libertarianism could still be considered as not yet advancing past this stage. But I will give the benefit of the doubt and move on:
Mythic-Literal: a stage where provided information is accepted in order to conform with social norms (school-going period).
Conforms with social norms? Go back and look at Block’s chapter titles. What do you suspect is the future of a society that conforms with those social norms? Alternatively, introduce the topic of human nature (social norms) – real humans, not proto-men – as necessary to consider when discussing application of the NAP and watch the reaction from the ivory-tower purists.
If libertarianism is the one true faith, it hasn’t yet advanced from this pre-adolescent, school-going period. This could be OK, given that Rothbard began writing on the topic only in the last several decades. Then again, classical liberalism has a couple of century’s worth of running start; man’s reason has had 500 years to do its work.
In any case, it seems premature to conclude this “one true faith” idea.
My recent post, An Adult Enters the Room, examined the views of Jesús Huerta de Soto on the topic of free immigration. In his essay, de Soto offered some steps that could be taken which would mimic libertarian conditions on this topic of borders and immigration, albeit in a world of state-controlled borders.
In the comments, paid shill December 27, 2017 at 4:07 PM introduced me to the term “keyhole solutions” as used by Bryan Caplan. Caplan, as much (or as little) as I have read of him, is a libertarian fan of open borders.
What is meant by “keyhole solutions,” and specifically in this context of open borders?
The term “keyhole solutions” is used for the radical idea of targeting specific problems through narrow, targeted solutions rather than trying to restrict or control unrelated activity. In the context of migration, they involve taxing or restricting specific problematic migrant activities rather than a blanket denial of migration.
For example: if the concern is that migrants immigrate in order to collect welfare benefits, don’t allow them access to such benefits; if the concern is that they immigrate in order to vote, deny them the vote for some specified period. Take each excuse away; this way “we” (the enlightened libertarians) don’t have to deal with all of the crazies who are against open borders.
From the aforementioned comment by paid shill:
So he takes out a page from the Gramsci-ite handbook and applies salami tactics. He offers "keyhole solutions"…which boil down to imposing a moral obligation of ex post facto damage control on the receiving society while declaring immigration restrictions a moral taboo.
Many of these policies are also completely unfeasible given the political climate in most Western countries but then again it's not about policies, it's about giving the natives peace of mind until a critical mass of foreigners arrive and make closing the borders politically impossible (under civilized circumstances at least).
What you see in this reddit AMA is him being the radical wolf wearing the guise of the moderate sheep, embracing a quite Straussian deceptiveness (which again is hallmark of open borderists).
This got me to thinking…and I replied, as follows:
As to keyhole solutions, thank you for the suggestion. I guess in some ways this is what de Soto has done in his piece and what I have suggested. The issue is this: what is the political feasibility of the solution? What are the chances that the rules won’t be changed part-way through the game? These are reasonable questions to ask when either he is or I am suggesting keyhole solutions. Maybe my solutions fail on this test….
Maybe mine do fail, but this isn’t the important part (at least for today); I continued:
Yet, as Caplan speaks in favor of egalitarianism and against discrimination, it gives me pause.
It is worth noting: in addition to egalitarian and against discrimination, Caplan also describes such policies as un-libertarian. I continued:
Property rights inherently are contrary to these concepts, and property rights are fundamental to libertarianism. It makes me wonder whose salami he is slicing – as you seem to be more familiar with him than I am, I will take your word for it.
I readily admit that I might not be considering the entirety of the population, but from my experience I have found far more “libertarians” in favor of ignoring full private property rights when these stand in the way of egalitarianism and support discrimination than I have found libertarians who place private property rights as the unshakable foundation of the principle.
So, “the one true faith” when expounded upon by many of its staunchest supporters (and seemingly the largest majority of supporters) holds a foundation that allows the libertine and ignores, when convenient, the foundation of property rights.
With such wide-ranging and even contradictory opinions, is libertarianism currently a house built on sand? A house that can be labelled “the one true faith”?
So What’s the Problem?
Is my criticism of libertarianism, or is it of “the one true faith” idea? I offer one more excerpt from my comments in the aforementioned discussion:
In the end, this might be a perfect example of why placing the non-aggression principle as the greatest good – the one true faith – is an ignorant idea: absent some underlying cultural, moral tradition, it is a road that can lead to very dark places. We have seen classical liberalism travel this very dark road already.
Clearly, my criticism is of the latter. I don’t expect the non-aggression principle to achieve that which it is not designed to achieve or capable of achieving. Why would any supporter of the principle place on it an impossible standard?
It is a principle that addresses the justified use of aggression, nothing more. So I do not criticize it for failing to deliver that which I do not expect it to deliver – that which, inherently, it is not designed to deliver.
Returning to this idea of “the one true faith”: I found this line: “Faith causes us to act on what we haven't experienced yet…”
The problem is that we have experienced it: we have experienced a period of extended, reasonably libertarian law in the Middle Ages – grounded in a society that valued tradition and culture. I think that last part is a rather important part of the story: law reflects the society; it isn’t the other way around.
Whatever value one finds in classical liberalism (and I find much to value) is quickly destroyed without this recognition: “Good” society, good law; “bad” society, [fill in the blank]. The European Middle Ages had a “good” tradition and culture; from this came good law – as close to libertarian law as I have found in western history.
We have also experienced the road where man’s reason alone (call it sola ratio) – starting with the Renaissance, through the Enlightenment and classical liberalism and to our present day – has led (see this most excellent post from Charles Burris).
It has led to the French Revolution, it has led to democracy, it has led to egalitarianism, it has led to discrimination being a dirty word, it has led to the bloodiest century and the bloodiest tyrants. It has led to law made by men in a value-free system where the worst get on top.
Somehow good law will come from such a system?
“Is bionic even a libertarian?”
That’s the wrong question. The question is: which is more likely to occur: a well-crafted theory of law in search of a society to adopt it or a tradition and culture that provides the foundation for good law to emerge?
I have read comments something like: a libertarian society would likely produce a more conservative culture, as radical or libertine behaviors would no longer be subsidized.
I am sympathetic to this view, but I never really felt settled about it. Can good law emerge from such a society? After working through this post, the answer seems to me no – it cannot. This is especially so when many of the top libertarian theorists reinforce the validity of either libertine and / or culture-destroying practices.
The non-aggression principle is a principle on which one can develop a well-crafted theory of law, albeit with much left open to interpretation and definition – interpretations and definitions many of which will only come from the society over which this law stands.
Yet, as well-crafted as it might be, it cannot emerge from a swamp. If it is “the one true faith,” it is sorely lacking its most critical necessities, perhaps the single most important pre-condition – a tradition and culture from which it can spring forth.
Good law does not come forward from a bad culture and tradition. So which one should be upheld as the one true faith?
If libertarianism/NAP is the one true faith, then wait until people are killing each other over the interpretation of libertarianism/NAP.ReplyDelete
Take Jacob Hornberger. He is a minarchist that believes in government, except in the case of borders (which is strange because most minarchists think that state borders make the case for their minarchy). He says that demanding that the state restrict immigration of immigrants that will plunder the citizens of the state is a violation of the NAP. While he does not make it explicit, presumably a citizen of the state would not be permitted in Hornberger's NAP framework to take direct violent action (self-defense) against the plundering foreigner either. Therefore the citizen has no property rights at all.
Bring on the inquisition against libertarian heretics now.
We don't even have to speculate as to whether there will be opportunistic/cynical interpretations of the NAP in "muh free society" since right now, under present conditions, we already see it's advocates doing precisely that. If you can't work out a consistent, unambiguous, scheme of rationalistic law for capitalist utopia from an ivory tower how are you going to do it under real historical/political pressures?
“Can good law emerge from such a society?"ReplyDelete
Of course not. Good law only comes from the Good Lawgiver. Our forefathers in Medieval Europe understood this and that is why western civilization flourished. ALL of our “freedoms” and affluence (and what’s left of) our peace and civility in these western nations are directly attributed to their dedication to the “two Great Commandments”, with which Christ summed up “ALL of the Law and the prophets” (see Matt 22). Once we, as a people, departed from that, we lost our “good society”.
All but the blind can see that Christian civilization (which is truly the *only* civilization) has been systematically dismantled over the past century and a half…to be replaced with what? Libertarianism? Communism? Perhaps, as you speculated in your earlier post, they are the same.
A society formed around the NAP is oxymoronic. When it is honestly dissected, the NAP is fundamentally a religion for cowards and therefore is unsustainable, and impossible. As a central tenet of Libertarianism—which itself is a well-crafted cover for a polity of licentiousness—it emerged from the minds of men who wish to retain the blessings of God’s Law without the curses for disobedience. It is cognitive dissonance at its heart—what the Bible calls “double-mindedness”. As for being the being “the one true faith”, well, I think you’ve correctly concluded that’s nonsense. The fruits of this faith are those listed by Walter Block in his ‘defended debaucheries’ and they are nothing but the doctrine of anti-christ. .. The handwriting is on the wall: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin”. Let’s face it, Libertariansism—as an “ism”—has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
Where then do we turn if we at length discover the tradition and culture proffered by libertarians is nothing more or less than the pig pen of the prodigal son? We recall that after gaining his freedom from his father’s law and “wasting his substance on riotous living” he quickly found himself in the midst of a “famine” of culture, decency, and the common good. What then shall we do? Precisely what he concluded: “I will arise and go to my father”. Until, as a people, we do that, our oppression will continue unbounded.
We are lamenting the loss of our once Christian society which has been subverted, subjugated and subsumed, and no one seems to have noticed. But Christians have been cowed into believing in the politics of the “atomized individual” because they have swallowed the false gospel of “personal salvation”. Christ preached the Gospel of the KINGDOM…the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Me. Our salvation will be a National Salvation—or none at all. As a Christian, my hope is in the completed mission of Christ—His Gospel becoming reality. Libertarianism is an impotent substitute, and like all other false gods, it will be “crushed into powder” by the Stone…Patience, my friend, His kingdom WILL come.
Sorry, it appears I’ve posted a blog post to your blog post. Anyway, God bless you, Bionic… This and your previous article were spot on, but just needed some clarity ;-)
I take issue with several things you've said. Going through your post, I'd have to say that, first, Libertarianism can in no way be equated with Communism. The former permits private ownership and accumulation of capital by individuals, the latter offers no such privilege. Libertarianism allows the individual to dispose of his goods according to the dictates of his conscience, while Communism (even in its voluntary form) dictates "To all according to his need, from each according to his ability", neglecting to say, of course, who makes those decisions - certainly not the individual. Nor do I believe that the NAP is a religion, although you could do a great deal worse than using the NAP as a guideline for your decisions.Delete
I also see you speak a great deal of Christian society - my question is, which Christian society would one use as a model for this society you propose? Catholic (possibly Bionic's choice)? Jehovah Witness or another of the protestant sects? How about one of the many sects that is intolerant of the beliefs, the non-violent acts or even the color of others? Given the power to enact their will, most Christian sects would approve of stoning heretics (as interpreted by them), prostitutes (again, open to interpretation) ... and please feel free to add here whatever your pet peeve may be. Talk to the Amish, the Quakers or the Mormons if you need examples of so-called "Christian" societies killing, robbing and persecuting those with whom they disagree. In my own experience, I often get along better with the peaceful Hindu than I do with many "Christians". Or, maybe you'd prefer one of the many Christian sects that "go with the flow" and preach whatever is popular? That would put us in the same rudderless situation that we now find ourselves.
I, for one, believe that there is such a thing as good law and I believe that the NAP can aid us in determining a good law from a bad one. Being a believer in Christ myself, I would gladly subject myself to a kingdom where Christ rules - He made the ultimate sacrifice and He alone is suited to rule. However, I will not subject myself to a government where some charismatic, self-appointed religous ego-maniac dictates to me what I should or should not believe based on their interpretation of what God meant when he spoke to people thousands of years ago.
I agree with much of your view – and this is not something I would have been able to write even a few years ago. Yet, even for those put off by the idea of a Christian culture, Christ’s words, etc., must ask the question: “SOMETHING was different about the European Middle Ages; what made this so?” I am open to an interpretation other than the one I have concluded – as long as it is well-supported with facts, etc.
“…to be replaced with what? Libertarianism? Communism?”
There will always be something or someone that governs – both libertarianism and communism suggest it need be nothing or no one. I don’t buy it.
“Perhaps, as you speculated in your earlier post, they are the same.”
I have not said they are the same; I have said that they share some common philosophical roots. You see a result of this in my sentence immediately above: both conclude that a society need not have anyone or anything to govern it (let’s just say that in the case of the NAP, one cannot derive any governance mechanism).
“Sorry, it appears I’ve posted a blog post to your blog post.”
No need for apology; I appreciate all feedback that is on point and well-articulated.
“Libertarianism can in no way be equated with Communism.”
Woody, I know you are addressing Unknown, but as he is paraphrasing me, I thought I should respond. See my reply to him, immediately above, for a start. I will further this: I understand very well the drastic differences in property rights between these two philosophies – this is not my point. In addition to my point about sharing some common philosophical roots, I find that they share the same cultural outlook. Certainly the means of the two are different: the communists destroy culture overtly, the libertarians do nothing to defend culture. The problem is the ends are the same: destroy a common, life-affirming culture and tradition and you will get a state – and a state of the worst kind.
Now I know that the NAP is inherently silent on culture and tradition – so why, when I suggest that culture and tradition are critical – and even foundational – if one wants to live in a relatively free society, do many libertarians go bananas?
“Given the power to enact their will, most Christian sects would approve of stoning heretics (as interpreted by them), prostitutes (again, open to interpretation)…”
Read something of the Christian society of the Middle Ages. Witch burning was virtually unknown, same for stoning, etc. The Church’s position regarding individuals such as these was to pray for their soul. (Virtually no slavery, either)
The rest of your comment I will leave to Unknown, if he cares to reply further.
Whether or not libertarianism is on par with communism is really not the issue. They’re both bankrupt doctrines. Which one is worse? Hard to say since we haven’t yet seen a libertarian society (and never will).Delete
As I remarked to Tex, the NAP is a parasitic doctrine and a poor counterfeit of the Law of God (read it for yourself in the Pentateuch: Genesis-Deuteronomy). It is essentially a sterilized--godless law of God with no heart and no teeth. Furthermore, it sanctifies what God has condemned once taken to its logical conclusion (which Mr. Block has done). Abandon it.
We once had a Christian society in America. This continent was colonized by Christians and the lands exclusively and consistently dedicated to JESUS CHRIST in their very founding documents (just read every original charter). And mind you, these were government—not church—documents. This used to be taught as routine in every PUBLIC school (as late as the 1970’s when I was still in elementary in the DC suburbs!). That history of course has been flushed down the memory hole now, but the original historical documents are extant and a myriad of scholarly works are available, free, on the internets if you doubt it. The various “sects” weren’t material to the fact that we had fundamentally a Christian society… everywhere the colonists landed. Our original government was Biblically based (not without error of course) and, again, all governing documents and state constitutions literally named the God of the Bible and His Word as their ultimate authority. Those are facts. Things have since changed.
You said, *as a Christian*, “I, for one, believe that there is such a thing as good law and I believe that the NAP can aid us in determining a good law from a bad one.” This sort of statement always amazes me. WHY would you use some indeterminate philosophy of man (NAP) to judge a law “good” or not rather than using GOD’S written Law for the same purpose? How is it, as an avowed Christian, you deem your Creator’s very DEFINTION of ethics as worthless? That’s troubling. You have a Bible, right? Do you need somebody to read it and explain it to you, or are you in fact one of God’s children TO WHOM He wrote it in the first place?
Yes, you will be subject to Christ’s Kingdom if you are permitted in it. And be assured it will be administrated by His law, and only His law. You should take the time to learn it now.
Libertarians do nothing to defend culture?
There is ostracism; there is boycott, there is the right to discriminate; there is the lack of state licence of counter-culture; there is the lack of state subsidy and promotion of counter-culture. Libertarianism offers some very potent tools in maintaining and defending culture.
"both [libertarianism and communism] conclude that a society need not have anyone or anything to govern it"
False. Libertarians believe in voluntary governance and consensual law.
What type of culture shall libertarians defend via ostracism, boycott, discrimination, etc.?
"Voluntary governance and consensual law" based on what? Can the NAP offer any criteria beyond not initiating aggression?
Whichever type they prefer in their own communities, societies, or nations. People can still have cultural preferences, just none subsidized by the state.
But ATL, this is my point: the NAP offers no guidance - nothing - when it comes to culture and tradition, or voluntary governance.Delete
What culture can a libertarian defend AS A LIBERTARIAN? The answer is none - and can only be none.
Is the the best of the western tradition that libertarianism has kept for us? Really?
I agree with you that the NAP is not a cure all. It's only the antidote for a very specific malady in society: the abuse of law and authority. And I agree with you that it cannot administer itself; it needs a people with a strong culture to put it into practice and uphold its principles through action.
The NAP offers guidance on those areas of culture and governance that relate to the use of violence. That isn't "nothing" as you say. As for the rest of culture and governance, the NAP leaves it to the capable hands of the natural social institutions of any particular area: the blood and soil.
The NAP is the best of the Western political tradition by far, and it authorizes the best of the Western cultural traditions to flourish without political interference.
If a tradition cannot survive through voluntary acceptance, what does this say about the tradition? Perhaps it is not worth keeping if only a few in power see its merit and have to force it upon the rest.
I have faith in the appeal of the old American and especially the Southern conservative cultural traditions in the absence of the state's poisonous influence. These cultures have been attacked by the American state for the very reason that they offer the most resistance to its increasing power and authority. Libertarianism offers them the chance to regain their former positions of authority.
What is the alternative? Can we trust the state to enforce and promote good culture? I think not. Good culture is not in the best interest of those who run and benefit from the state.
If your answer is the European middle ages, then I would certainly agree that this would be better than the state. I think in some places and in some times, the middle ages approximated voluntary private law societies. 11th and 12th century Iceland is a prime example.
I would argue that libertarianism is better than aristocracy, which is better than monarchy, which is better than parliamentary monarchy, which is better than democratic republicanism, which is better than democracy, which leads to the worst of all: dictatorship. All of these forms of political organization require a strong cultural backbone if society is to succeed under them in any meaningful way. Libertarianism is little different than the rest in this regard. The difference is that liberty promotes strong culture, whereas the rest, to the extent they concentrate power in one entity, tend to degrade culture.
Thank you for the comment. As you mention elsewhere, I think I have said my piece on this topic for the moment but I would like to ask a specific question and make a specific comment (hopefully I am able to keep these focused:
1) What do you mean by the following, because it isn't clear to me?
"If a tradition cannot survive through voluntary acceptance, what does this say about the tradition? Perhaps it is not worth keeping if only a few in power see its merit and have to force it upon the rest."
2) "I would argue that libertarianism is better than aristocracy..."
Perhaps, but I am yet to find a good example of a successful, long term libertarian society - I would really love to, as it would offer a target to aim at, a target that is achievable for humans.
I think the European Middle Ages (at least my understanding of the main tenets of the law of this time) lie somewhere between these two data points. That's as far up the scale as I have found.
1) Perhaps not you but others in the comment section, and many conservatives generally, seem to think that we need a state to enforce a moral culture and tradition among those around us. My question for them is whether a culture or tradition has merit if it cannot be trusted to survive absent organized coercion.Delete
We know products offered on the market have merit, if free individuals will give up a portion of their resources voluntarily in order to receive them. Libertarianism sets up a marketplace of cultures, in which all must abide by the NAP. Each culture must attract adherents voluntarily. May the best culture win.
Successful cultures, or those that promote successful individuals, will tend to have command of more property and thus more power to protect and further their way of life. Those cultures which aren't as successful still have the power, thanks to the NAP, to preserve their way of life. This is important, I believe, because the marketplace can get things wrong, and we may be able to learn something from even the most backwards of cultures.
2) The libertarian nation comprised of free market governance associations and companies has a more effective check on the abuse of power because those living under them have alternatives other than an armed uprising: like peacefully withdrawing funding and participation. Perhaps the line between aristocracy and libertarianism can be nearly non-existent depending on the cultures they govern and the laws they live under. Any monopoly of governance, however, is a cancer that will use its position of aggressive authority to draw more power and resources to itself while degrading both the character and capital of the people under it through a continuing parasitic war of attrition.
There has never been a society which has operated purely on libertarian principles, or which has operated pure libertarian law, at least to my limited knowledge. But many cultures and nations have incorporated elements of it, and I would argue that to the extent they approximated it, they were often successful.
Ireland and Iceland both had voluntary and decentralized judges and courts. The ancient Hebrews lived under judges before they accepted King Saul (which, in God's eyes was considered a mistake). Anglo-Saxon Britain lived largely under customary law until the Norman invasion. The American colonies lived under near community rule under salutary neglect from the British empire. The Articles of Confederation was very decentralized and libertarian, much more so than the later Constitution.
To the extent we've strayed from libertarian principles in governance, we've ended up with all sorts of problems of which I'm sure you're well aware.
Can a society really be considered moral, if the moral choices of the individuals within it are coerced by utilitarian notions of violence? Wouldn't this just be the veneer of morality? Is it moral to, as UC 2.0 has so candidly stated, hang pornographers because they cause metaphysical damage to others? How does this contrast with the ridiculous notions of 'micro-aggressions' whined about from millennial left wingers?
The Catholic Church often used excommunication to enforce their laws (at least where it was not the governing authority itself) and this provided a legitimate check on the authority of kings throughout Europe, so perhaps libertarians are the true inheritors of the Christian tradition (with our methods of boycott and ostracism), whereas many so-called conservatives today may just be modern French Jacobins sharpening their guillotines ready to forge their version of Utopia in blood.
“My question for them is whether a culture or tradition has merit if it cannot be trusted to survive absent organized coercion.”
Yet, Hoppe is not far removed from advocating organized coercion to maintain a culture and tradition:
“In a covenant...among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and removed from society.”
“There has never been a society which has operated purely on libertarian principles…”
Would you classify Hoppe’s society as one operating purely on libertarian principles?
If yes, it is an example of the non-aggression principle allowing organized coercion to maintain a culture and tradition. If the answer is no, then I think there can never be a society operating purely on libertarian principles.
Rothbard also contended that there is no such right as the right of free speech, only consensual allowances of speech among private property owners. In the same way, I believe Hoppe's covenant community would be in line with the NAP if the property was sold on such a condition (no advocating democracy or communism), i.e. if the tenants only had conditional ownership. Think of a housing or community developer selling property with conditions on speech. No cursing, no harassing, no slander or libel, etc. Fines or expulsion could result depending on the contract and the severity of the offense.Delete
If, however, owners of property have full ownership of said property, I do not believe they can be thrown out purely for a violation of speech, unless they are found to be plotting to install a democratic or communistic regime (if they are plotting to carry out future aggression on their neighbors).
If they are merely trying to convince others of the merits of democracy or communism, the worst that can happen to them (in line with NAP) is that they can be dropped by their legal association or free market governance provider (terms of contract), and it may be difficult for them to find another given their views. In such a case, these individuals may find themselves outside the law, having no legal support from any group, and this would be a dangerous position to be in, since crimes may be committed (not permitted) against them and they would have little to no legal recourse other than maybe charity. I will try to explain my views further if necessary.
This is really getting down to the bare edge of the NAP, where interpretations can be a little varied. Above is only my view (or my understanding of the views of others as I've noted). This is also where 'armchair theorizing' probably won't get us as far as real world experience as Stephan Kinsella has often pointed out.
My point is that here is a libertarian society using organized coercion to protect its culture. Hoppe goes further, as I suspect you know:
"Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. … [violators] will have to be physically removed from society."
For fear of going too far down the path of armchair theorizing…
“I believe Hoppe's covenant community would be in line with the NAP if the property was sold on such a condition…”
Of course, I suspect not every condition can be imagined and included in a contraction beforehand. The neighbor’s college age kid comes home for the summer. Except now he sunbaths on the front lawn – and his girlfriend sunbaths with him…well, and they do this horizontal dance…and the kids all get to watch.
Or, to borrow something from UC: what if he is projecting porno films on the outside of the garage door?
Gee…no provision in the conditions binding the property owners against this act – who would have even thought of such a thing to put it in the contract? What are the residents of this “covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin” to do?
I guess we could have a tribunal of senior members of the community pass judgment on acts if they are deemed to violate the covenant (as long as this procedure was spelled out in the contract…but what if it wasn’t?). But…you can’t get this college boy to listen. So, how might the judgment be enforced?
I think you could physically remove him – expel him from the community….deport him to protect the culture.
So, back to your question: “My question for them is whether a culture or tradition has merit if it cannot be trusted to survive absent organized coercion.”
What if the only way to ensure a culture or tradition survives is through organized coercion?
Unfortunately, we do not live in such a covenant community – one organized to protect family and kin or any other covenant you might choose; one that is able to pass its own judgments. Do we stand impotent in defending our culture and tradition? Or is our pen our only weapon?
If you haven’t seen this before, it might be worth a read:
As always, thank you for the discussion and the excellent questions. These are exactly the kinds of questions we need to answer as a burgeoning freedom seeking society.
I'm not sure you can prohibit or remove 'bad neighbors' by force and still be in line with the NAP, unless these prohibitions of behavior were agreed to beforehand. However, I think communities will find ways of ending these types of situations whether or not they are 'kosher' with the NAP.
I do think that many of the 'bad neighbor' issues can be dealt with as a form of nuisance tort law. Rothbard has talked about the homesteading of the emission of sounds and smells, so why not the 'emission' of offensive sights as well?
If you move next to a dump, you cannot then file suit for the bad smell. The smell was there before you. If you move next to an airport, you cannot then file suit due to the noise. The noise was there before you. If you move next to a nudist colony, you cannot file suit due to the offensive view. The nudity was there first.
But if you were there first, perhaps you would have a libertarian case against all of these nuisances.
Another peaceful way would be to alert all the offending party's family, friends, employers, and others he interacts with of the bad behavior. As Hoppe suggests, get people with strong communal authority on your side as well to help you to carry out a boycott or an ostracism until this person changes their offensive behavior.
Perhaps someone in the community would 'sacrifice' himself by violating the NAP and simply tossing this offensive person out, giving him a good dust up, and threatening him not to return. Once the community learns of his actions they may choose not to punish this person or to punish only lightly since many would recognize the service this person performed in restoring the tranquility of the community.
In the 2011 film "Bernie" (based on a true story from Carthage, Texas) a man kills his elderly female companion, but his reputation was so good in the community that even though he confessed, the prosecutor got the distinct (and probably correct) impression the town was going to acquit him for the crime, because they all recognized what a horrible woman the victim was (and how she had manipulated Bernie's nice and passive nature into basically turning him into her slave), so he moved the court proceedings to a different town.
If the town would have acquitted him, would justice have been served? According to the town it would have. Sometimes justice takes on an unwritten 'flavor' depending on the local culture.
"I do think that many of the 'bad neighbor' issues can be dealt with as a form of nuisance tort law. Rothbard has talked about the homesteading of the emission of sounds and smells, so why not the 'emission' of offensive sights as well?"Delete
What if the private judge in your case is Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Its easy enough to talk about process and resolution, but such processes are easily derailed. Indeed, with everyone suing each other, judges will be a privileged group and still be subject to public choice problems (even under libertarianism), so your libertarian society could be lost within a generation if not a few years.
What if your state is run by Ruth Bader Ginsburg?Delete
Why would everyone sue each other? A free market court actually has to worry about their reputation, so they wouldn't be taking a bunch of frivolous lawsuits like your state system would and currently does.
If people are crazy and stupid, then they'll be this way under any political arrangement libertarian or no. My contention is that someone like Ruth Bader Ginsberg would not become a judge at all if the demand for her services were determined by the free market.
The libertarian path provides the necessary openness and lack of political protection and subsidy to allow for a natural elite to rise into positions of authority. A state tends to let morons and sociopaths in the through the back door and eventually we elect them president because option 2 was worse.
Have you ever tackled Wilhelm Ropke's A Humane Economy?ReplyDelete
Read the last paragraph and sentence of the Preface to the English Language Edition.
I have not read the book. I, too, find the fourth group as my favorite!Delete
Are we being too hard on Block? From his intro to Defending;ReplyDelete
“The defense of such as the prostitute, pornographer, etc., is thus a very limited one. It consists solely of the claim that they do not initiate physical violence against nonaggressors. Hence, according to libertarian principles, none should be visited upon them. This means only that these activities should not be punished by jail sentences or other forms of violence. It decidedly does not mean that these activities are moral, proper, or good.”
That he is arguing against a political solution, force, does not mean he is not arguing for a cultural solution, social pressure, persuasion etc. I think you linked an essay of his not long ago where he goes more into this.
Can I be against "sin laws" and for moral culture?
I Believe Block, elsewhere, goes even further than this; I believe he has stated that culturally he is quite conservative.Delete
"Can I be against "sin laws" and for moral culture?"
Yes. But my question is different: can one create and maintain a libertarian society (or something approaching it) absent a moral culture?
My answer is no.
>It consists solely of the claim that they do not initiate physical violence against nonaggressors.Delete
And there in lies the reason libertarianism is a degenerate ideology that will cannot sustain a high culture. Pornographers are worse than highwaymen or muggers since the later does violence to the body the former does violence to the spirit. Pornography is potentially the single most destructive force in the world today. It's curious that a jewish dominated "industry" would be so consistently defended by a jewish dominated intellectual movement....
I take it you would like to see those who hang pornographers punished for violating their "rights?" This is the libertarian concept of justice.
Libertarianism is indeed a degenerate ideology. However, most libertarians are not degenerates… Just misguided, if not deluded.
Physical violence has always been employed in the forming and maintaining of civilization, and there is no reason to believe that will--or can--change during this age. In the age to come, we “shall beat our sword into plowshares”. That’s Bible words for NAP. Few, however, know that the scriptures also teach the reverse in times of necessity---namely at the end of the age before the great and terrible Day of the Lord:
“Proclaim ye this among the nations; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.” (Joel 3)
Not so NAPish...
Your link is enlightening—I hope others read it. But rest assured, there will be no pornographers in the coming Kingdom. Neither will there be any Edomites to produce it. Ever again.
Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. Christian libertarians foolishly ignore their own fundamental tenets.
Unknown, really I think it is enough Scripture. I have enough trouble keeping the dialogue out of the dozens of rabbit holes that most NAP-themed dialogues go; my problem will multiply ten-fold if I allow dialogue about interpretation of Scripture.Delete
I have purposely never answered questions such as if I am Catholic, or whatever; I believe my general view on the subject of Christianity and the Bible is quite clear - I have not been shy about this.
My point is that this blog is not meant for such debates. Please respect this.
Just curious. Which other immoral and nonviolent acts do you think deserve the death penalty?
> It is better that the pornography industry be allowed to operate with impunity than for anyone to harm a pornographerDelete
If hanging pornography moguls makes you uncomfortable we can always deport them to Israel.
"Our salvation will be a National Salvation—or none at all."ReplyDelete
These are the types of sentences that 'justify' killing or enslaving large numbers of people. Your criticism of libertarianism is easily dismissed, since your state system would undoubtedly license much more debauchery than a free society would.
"Libertarianism is an impotent substitute, and like all other false gods, it will be “crushed into powder” by the Stone"
Yikes. This is why I own guns. I assume you're referring to the ancient Jewish practice of stoning heretics to death? What did Jesus have to say about the practice of stoning? I believe it was something along the lines of 'he who is without sin cast the first stone.'
"His kingdom WILL come."
I think you mean your kingdom, and fat chance buddy.
I'm pretty sure Walter Block used that title 'tongue in cheek' in order to be a little provocative. I don't think he was suggesting that libertarianism is actually a new religion.ReplyDelete
It would be more appropriate to say that it is the one true norm of behavior, since the purpose of behavioral norms, as Hans Hoppe has so precisely stated, is to eliminate conflict, which always occurs over scarce resources, and any other norm outside of the libertarian one blurs the lines of ownership over said resources and thus invites conflict.
This norm of behavior is not a recent development however, since the Mosaic ten commandments are perfectly consistent with them. Is this Biblical tradition old enough to be considered good law?
Libertarianism is agnostic on the subject of religion, so long as religion does not endorse aggression against person or property. Therefore, most religions are compatible and welcome to employ the framework of libertarianism. I think religion, especially Christianity, and liberty are mutually reinforcing.
When Walter Block 'defends' these deplorable lifestyles, he is not advocating them, he is only saying that to prevent them with violence would be disproportionate. In other words, the cure would be worse than the crime. I would add that allowing ourselves to cure these crimes in the utilitarian manner (with worse crimes) would make us no different then the countless authoritarian creeds which endorse the 'ends justify the means' motto. This is why Rothbard thought utilitarians made untrustworthy allies of liberty, and I believe he was right.
All this talk about libertarianism being licentious is just hilarious considering how licentious the current state is and how far away from a libertarian society we are. In the libertarian society people would be much more incentivized to be upstanding and moral individuals.
It is true that there are many so-called libertarians who only hold the title so that they can smoke pot or visit a prostitute. Some even misguidedly advocate for open borders, because they have a faulty notion of property rights and discrimination. I would surmise that a deeper reason for the open borders, cosmopolitan mindset is a rejection of one's own culture and a romanticized unrealistic ideal of the cultures of others.
Given that there are many in the above categories, this still does not diminish the importance of the non-aggression axiom. The most effective tool we have in controlling corruption and licentiousness, especially among those we trust to govern us, is the ability to withdraw our funds and participation. Only libertarianism, and it's backbone of the non-aggression axiom, gives us the use of this tool in regards to all services in society, especially the most important ones like dispute resolution, policing and defense.
You show me a better tool of holding powerful people in check, and I'll begin questioning the merits of the NAP.
Sorry for the anonymous post; I just read the posting policy so I’ll make an attempt at naming myself (we’ll see if it works).Delete
Tex, I’ll assume you’re either an agnostic or Christian-leaning. You’re an acolyte of libertarianism for sure—and compared to most other political ideologies, that’s commendable. I too was a libertarian (I thought) while also claiming to be a Christian. Prior to that, I believed I was a ‘Christian-Anarchist’ (whatever that is). But I was never a statist. As I grew older and more learned and experienced, I had to abandon libertarianism. It is simply not compatible with the doctrine of Christ… And after all, that IS what Christianity is. So that’s my story, if it matters.
Anyway, I wasn’t posting about me, or my philosophy really, but commending Bionic on his search for truth (damn the torpedoes!). Perhaps one day, he may too denounce libertarianism. I guess his blog may go down the toilet when that happens, but that may be the price of truth.
Per your comments, in order:
1.) My criticism of libertarianism has no basis in any desire for “*my* state system” (since I’m not a statist). Again, it is anti-christian. That’s all. Christ does not “license” ANY debauchery, since by His own words all who do such things will be “CAST OUT” of His kingdom (Rev 22).
2.) I also own guns. Jesus even told his disciples that if any had not a sword, to “sell his cloak and buy one”. (Your cloak was probably your most valuable possession.) I don’t know if our swords will help to bring in the kingdom or not, but it can’t hurt to have them. If you think Jesus came to bring peace, you are wrong, for He himself said “I came not to bring peace, but a sword…” His return, in the scriptures, is called “the Day of Vengeance”... and He means it. If you’d like to know more about it, read Isaiah 63 and Revelation 19.
3.) His Kingdom certainly will come. It’s a promise… and “God is not a man that He should lie.” Jesus ONLY preached the Gospel (‘Good News’) of the Kingdom, and as his disciples, so should we. Only question is, whether you’re to be in it or not. There will be no other kingdoms.
4.) The current state is indeed licentious—you are correct. But a libertarian one is no improvement, and by their own doctrine, would probably be far worse. That’s not “hilarious” at all to me.
5.) Finally, “You show me a better tool of holding powerful people in check, and I'll begin questioning the merits of the NAP.” Well, Start with Genesis and continue to the end of Revelation. All the tools are there, my friend. And guess what? The NAP is a johnny-come-lately, for it stole most of the idea from the Law of God before going totally rogue with the Luciferian nonsense of “do what thou wilt is the whole of the Law”. Like I said, the NAP and libertarianism is a parasitic false gospel… a poor and demented counterfeit. The sooner you come to grips with that the better.
“I don't think he was suggesting that libertarianism is actually a new religion.”
If I am misstating his view, I apologize in advance, but I have gathered as much from his writing and his correspondence with me: Walter would pull the plug today, right now – end the state this moment. He believes everything will work out fine after that – we will find a libertarian order in the wake.
Look, he might be right. But it is an experiment like no other tried anywhere on earth – and to the extent something like it has been approached, what came after was often worse than what came before.
So…this is much more than the faith of a mustard seed. It is the faith of an avocado pit. This is a religion; I have no other way to describe it. But, again, he might be right.
“…the Mosaic ten commandments are perfectly consistent with them.”
These include commandments beyond anything that can be derived from the NAP. Are you OK with these? If so, how should these be enforced?
“When Walter Block 'defends' these deplorable lifestyles, he is not advocating them…”
I do not suggest he is advocating these lifestyles. I do suggest that a society that lives these lifestyles is not long for liberty.
“All this talk about libertarianism being licentious is just hilarious considering how licentious the current state…”
I don’t know what it means to say libertarianism is licentious. It is just a theory of the proper use of aggression. My point is about a licentious society – one that libertarianism is silent on, yet one in which liberty cannot function.
“…this still does not diminish the importance of the non-aggression axiom.”
I do not diminish it; I also do not expect more from it than it is designed to deliver. Libertarians who do expect more from it than it is designed to deliver are the ones who diminish it. Libertarians such as these make it easy for non-libertarians to mock us (and the theory).
“You show me a better tool of holding powerful people in check, and I'll begin questioning the merits of the NAP.”
I don’t know what to make of this statement. I might consider the NAP a theory, but I cannot consider it a tool. A tool is functional, capable of performing the task for which it is designed. Powerful people are not kept in check by the NAP; I suspect they laugh when they read such things.
In any case, I did show you a better tool. The best tool that I have found – one that actually functioned successfully in this regard – was the law of the European Middle Ages. Quite consistent with the NAP in many (not all) respects, yet completely dependent on a specific cultural soil. I have not found any other example approaching this level of success for this duration of time on any other soil.
But you already know that this is my opinion, so I don’t get your point. If you disagree with my opinion regarding the law of the Middle Ages, perhaps you can do so directly.
Congrats on never being a statist. You must have had wonderful parents to give you that kind of monumental head start in life. That is more than commendable.
At least we agree that the state is fundamentally anti-Christ. But if you are not a believer in the state, and yet not a libertarian or an anarchist any longer, what are you? A retreatist? Are we as humans just doomed to a wretched existence until Christ's return?
Also, how is libertarianism not compatible with the Doctrine of Christ? When does Christ ever advocate aggression?
Call me a heretic if you like, but Revelations has no merit to me as a Christian. This was not the first person account of Christ's teachings. This text's origin was a vision supposedly of the apostle John after the Roman authorities exiled him many years after Christ's death. Perhaps he, and not Christ, was feeling a bit vengeful?
Why would the same Christ who taught at the Sermon on the Mount that we're supposed to love our enemies and turn the other cheek when they wrong us then preach a vengeful message of retaliation against his enemies? Its a contradiction, and since the Sermon on the Mount is first hand testimony of Christ while he was alive, and Revelations is not, I choose to believe the former over the latter.
This has branched off into somewhat of a theological debate, but I feel it is relevant because you've made the argument that Christianity is incompatible with libertarianism.
As for your last point, about the Bible keeping powerful people in check, well my friend, that just doesn't hold much water when politicians and many of those they 'serve' don't believe in any God, let alone the Christian one.
The fact that you think libertarian law is summarized as "do what thou wilt" is a good indication of how poorly you understand libertarianism, but please... keep educating me on its parasitic and false nature.
Walter's radicalism is a bit naive in my opinion. Pulling the plug on the state may be the ethical thing to do, but there will surely be many numerous unintended consequences from this in an immoral statist society- the worst of which may be the erection of a new and worse state (one obsessed with preventing another plug puller). It is an absurd hypothetical to begin with, since there is no (and there never will be any) plug to pull.
"I might consider the NAP a theory, but I cannot consider it a tool. A tool is functional, capable of performing the task for which it is designed. Powerful people are not kept in check by the NAP; I suspect they laugh when they read such things."
It is a tool whether you consider it one or not, and it can be used to hold powerful people in check if us common folk would hold them to it. All power rests on public opinion. This is why education is our primary task in creating a free society.
"In any case, I did show you a better tool."
I agree with your assessment of the European middle ages. They used the law as a tool to unseat kings who disobeyed it. This is exactly the kind of tool libertarianism is proposing except without setting up a governing monopoly in the first place that then must be overthrown by force when it is corrupted.
Instead we're saying give no one a monopoly on governance. Let them compete for our patronage and participation. When they become corrupt, we will exercise our right to find another service provider or to form our own.
Your tool that you claim is better than the NAP is actually a close approximation of it, and you admitted this in your post. I'm arguing that to the extent that it served as a useful tool in keeping law making power in check among kings, it was because of this approximation of libertarian law.
In other words, I contend that the middle ages' right of resistance was a functional but less efficient check on power than the libertarian right of self ownership.
Some of the ten commandments are thoughts, so there is no way enforce them on Earth. Whether you covet your neighbors wife or his property is between you and God. Otherwise I suggest proportional nonviolent methods for violations of the 10 commandments which do not cross the threshold of aggression.
Theory, tool, theory, tool.Delete
Two things turned the theory into a tool in the Middle Ages: the culture, and the sword. A theory, without these, is useless to check power.
Now, to your point of education...this could be considered as a way to change the culture. Then again, given all of the difficulties God has had in this regard, I suggest that we might be a bit more humble in our hopes.
And I say this fully supportive of proper libertarian education - which must, certainly, include an understanding of the type of culture to bring something approaching it to fruition!
Unfortunately, most of the "libertarian" institutions and personalities in the west are advocating for exactly the wrong type of culture necessary to achieve liberty.
Tex, thanks for your thoughtful response.Delete
If I heard someone who understands as I do now speak this to me years ago, I would have dismissed him as a crank, or a deluded fool. Because, I thought I understood the truth. Like you do now. Like most thinking people do. No one wants to believe they are misguided/deceived/or just ignorant.
While he was still with them, Jesus once told his disciples, “I have much more to say to you, but you cannot bear it now.” And so it is for all of us. We will understand when we are mentally and spiritually prepared. I do not have all the answers. I am not a prophet of God. I am on a continual journey of learning. But my path has certainly taken me into the weeds many times, and I certainly didn’t know it until I came out of them! Libertarianism was just one of those sidetracks.
That said, I can’t answer all your questions, my friend. It would take a book and a month long Bible study—and your willingness and ability to perceive such truths. See, I believe the Bible—the whole book—is the actual Word of God. There are no contradictions, only misunderstandings. (I know there are many bad translations and even well-translated Bibles have errors). But this is also in the Providence of God—compelling us to “diligently search the scriptures” to find the truth. I assure you, it is there. Read all of Christ’s parables. They were DESIGNED to hide the truth! Christ said so! (Mark 4:11,12) Many of Christ’s words are hard teachings. If you’ve spent much time in church or listening to “Christian programming”, you’ve likely never heard about any of them. Nor have you likely heard so many more obscure things from the rest of the Scriptures. Yes, God deliberately obscured the truth from all but His people. And also, many—most of his people are still in darkness. “Many are called, few are chosen”.
For the sake of the discussion, though, I’ll help with a few things. Yes, the state is fundamentally anti-Christ. It began shortly after the Garden with Nimrod, which quickly lead to the empires of Babylon and Assyria . It is remarkable how civilization just ‘appeared’ out of nowhere about 6000 years ago, no? And yet, we know there were races of people wandering this earth for a long time prior to that… Until God created Adam. His purpose and destiny is hardly understood by most Christians, and the same goes for the “Last Adam”, Jesus Christ. Not all people are descendants of Adam. Likewise, not all have a purpose in him, or in Christ. Christ ONLY came for the “lost sheep of the House of Israel”. He only came for His people. That’s the first point.
The second point is why libertarianism is incompatible with the doctrine of Christ (and what then do *I* call myself). No, I’m not a retreatist. I believe in Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom. I understand—satisfactorily—Daniel’s vision of the ‘beast kingdoms’ and the corresponding vision of the beast in John’s vision of Revelation. The historical evidence is overwhelming that it played out exactly as prophesied. In fact the prophecies of the Bible have NEVER failed to come to pass—which is precisely how God has proven to us that He is God (see Isaiah 46!). History is simply the Bible unfolding itself. No honest student of both can deny that!
One final Kingdom remains to appear. Christ said it will begin “as a mustard seed” and eventually grow as a tree “to cover the earth”. It is the Stone Kingdom of Daniel 2. It will subdue all other kingdoms. It will be called “Zion”. No, it is not the land of Palestine presently occupied by those calling themselves “Jews”. I do not know exactly how or when it will fully appear, but it is very near. And MUCH trouble will precede it.Delete
Libertarianism is indeed a false gospel because it denies Christ’s Kingdom (the Kingdom of God/Heaven). This Kingdom is well described throughout the Bible from beginning to end. It bears NO resemblance to a libertarian utopia. Because therein, God’s eternal Law will be upheld and Christ Himself will rule “with a rod of iron”…there will be no “defended debaucheries,” and this WILL be enforced by something quite other than the NAP—that being the Sword. Yet God will not force His people to conform, rather they will be persuaded—wooed if you will, through mutual love. Those not conforming simply won’t be in the Kingdom…and as I said, there will be no other kingdoms. Take that as you will.
Libertarianism imagines a kingdom where righteousness means ‘whatever we want it to mean’. Like “science” does today. It is a culture of live and let live—and let them live nearby who hate us. But we simply CANNOT serve God while our enemies oppress us. That is in fact why He brought His people out of Egypt “by a mighty hand, with great terrors, and many signs and wonders”—to begin the Kingdom of God where His people are finally free to serve Him (so much for the NAP). It was a precursor of the great events to come. Good and evil simply cannot coexist. All of history was a trial to prove that one truth..
Rather, the promise of God is this, and it will not fail: “I bring near MY RIGHTEOUSNESS; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.”
Unknown / ATLDelete
I very much appreciate this conversation, but I am struggling with, on the one hand, following it to a conclusion yet on the other, the edge it approaches regarding a theological debate.
Anyway, I ask you both to keep this in mind if you choose to continue the dialogue.
I think whether Christianity is compatible with libertarianism is a different debate, that probably should be conducted elsewhere, since it is a bit off topic. For my part, I have said what I wish to, and I appreciate Sheldon's responses.
"Unfortunately, most of the "libertarian" institutions and personalities in the west are advocating for exactly the wrong type of culture necessary to achieve liberty."Delete
I certainly sympathize with you here. Attempts to co-op the libertarian movement are unavoidable as it gains traction, and they will most likely come from those institutions which seek to ingratiate themselves with the state and the giant media corporations bound up in it.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Russell Kirk and Murray Rothbard had gotten along famously from the beginning, or if Russell Kirk had bothered to try to understand libertarianism at all. I've read his critiques and they are no where near as good as yours in your recent discussions, though somewhat along the same lines. Link below in case you are ever interested.
Murray and Russell could have forged quite the libertarian conservative alliance, but their personalities clashed and both resented the other. Russell was one of the last conservatives of the American Conservative movement that I've come to respect.
I read the essay. Quite interesting. I suspect the 1988 Rothbard (the year of the essay) might have found more common ground with Kirk than the 1973 Rothbard (the one I read in the Libertarian Forum). But I have no idea if their history by 1988 made this an impossibility - I just am not familiar with the history.Delete
I suspect by 1992 they might have gotten along even better - if Kirk could have got over all of the egg on his face about the dangers of the Soviet bogeyman, which seems to be his biggest beef about libertarians in the essay.
The essay might be worth a deconstruction, but I am afraid my treatment would just convince the libertarians in the audience that I am conservative and the conservatives in the audience that I am a nut.
But what else is new!
I don't know their history very well either, but I've gotten the impression from what I've read in the past that they did not like each other. I apologize for the vagueness. Maybe I can dig up what I read to give me this impression. I think it had something to do with Kirk's admiration for Edmund Burke, and Rothbard's condemnation of him.Delete
I want to say that they did end up getting along towards the end of Murray's life.
And yes Kirk's analysis of the Soviet menace falls right in line with his lack of understanding in economics. I think the Austrians may have been the only ones who knew that the Soviet Union would collapse on its own due to its mismanagement of the economy.
"The question is: which is more likely to occur: a well-crafted theory of law in search of a society to adopt it or a tradition and culture that provides the foundation for good law to emerge?"ReplyDelete
I believe you need fertile soil to grow a productive plant out of a seed, just like you need a good and moral society to have good and moral laws and governance. The less moral we are, the less chance we will be governed by good laws. I believe we are in agreement here.
"If men will not be governed by the ten commandments, they will be governed by the ten thousand commandments." - G.K. Chesterton
Libertarianism, however, is not devoid of tradition. It was crafted by putting the Western tradition through rational scrutiny, keeping what is good, and discarding what is not; keeping what works, and recognizing what didn't.
This is where some misguided libertarians and most of our opponents fall into error in their criticisms. Because libertarians discarded laws against nonviolent immorality, they think libertarians embrace immorality. But the one does not follow from the other. We simply recognized that passing laws prohibiting nonviolent 'sins' has unintended consequences that typically result in the promotion of immorality and the perversion of governance.
Our crucible was the decay of classical liberal governance of the 18th and 19th centuries into the monstrosities of the 20th century. What went wrong? The short answer is the cancerous nature of the state. I'm interested in your line of thought that it was also the loss of religion and culture. I'm nearly convinced you are right.
The question I have is how do we regain the good and moral culture that has been lost? How do we regain a tradition that is conducive to good (libertarian) laws?
“Libertarianism, however, is not devoid of tradition. It was crafted by putting the Western tradition through rational scrutiny, keeping what is good, and discarding what is not; keeping what works, and recognizing what didn't.”
This is just plain wrong. Libertarianism kept one thing and one thing only from any “good” of western tradition: do not initiate aggression. Libertarianism is silent on the countless number of things that make for a functional society.
“Do not initiate aggression” is not the whole of “what works,” or what makes for a functional, reasonably free society. “What works” requires us “to do” some things; libertarianism merely offers what we cannot do.
Whether you believe in the Christian tradition or the lessons of hundreds of generations over tens-of-thousands of years, western society functioned well in a certain model: among many other things, patriarch, family, tribe. Libertarianism is, at best, silent on these. In other words, it has thrown these out.
But I do not fault libertarianism for this, as I never expected libertarianism to be a god; I do fault libertarians who do not understand that it requires more than the NAP if they want to live in something approaching a free society.
“The question I have is how do we regain the good and moral culture that has been lost? How do we regain a tradition that is conducive to good (libertarian) laws?”
This is tough when almost all churches are happy supporters of the worst violations the state commits. I suggest prayer and raising healthy children.
"Libertarianism is silent on the countless number of things that make for a functional society."
You are right about this, but then again I never said it wasn't. Perhaps I should have been more precise in my wording. I meant that libertarianism is the refinement of the Western political tradition, not the Western cultural tradition, but I think it should come as no surprise that libertarianism was born in the West. In other words, liberty is a product of Western culture.
"Libertarianism is, at best, silent on these. In other words, it has thrown these out."
Libertarianism authorizes these natural social institutions to flourish on their own, when the state is working to destroy and pervert them.
"I do fault libertarians who do not understand that it requires more than the NAP if they want to live in something approaching a free society."
I believe this as well, though I am open to cosmopolitan and libertine libertarians proving me wrong, just so long as I'm not forced to subsidize their behavior.
"I suggest prayer and raising healthy children"
This is certainly a wonderful start.
"I meant that libertarianism is the refinement of the Western political tradition, not the Western cultural tradition, but I think it should come as no surprise that libertarianism was born in the West. In other words, liberty is a product of Western culture."Delete
As you note in this comment, you cannot separate one from the other: there is no western political tradition without the western cultural tradition.
Libertarianism is silent on cultural traditions - as it must be.
Therefore from where will the best of western political tradition emerge if libertarians don't consider the cultural traditions that brought these forth?
>These are the types of sentences that 'justify' killing or enslaving large numbers of people.
The "freedom" idea has never done so? Any idea worth living for is worth killing and dying for. It really is a question of who is ultimately right.
"The only defensible war is a war of defense." - G.K. ChestertonDelete
I'm not against bloodshed, but it depends on whether I'm doing so legitimately in regards to property rights and violations thereof, and the proportionality of the initial crime.
If I'm killing someone on their soil or in their home, chances are pretty likely that I'd be the criminal.
I read your previous post and felt rather unsettled by it, because you gave a powerful impression of expecting libertarianism to deliver something it was never meant to. Glad you went and spelled it out in so many words.ReplyDelete
It seems plain to me that you're terribly concerned with achieving a society that can stand the test of time as well as provide a reasonably libertarian environment for its members.
While that's a noble goal that most people could profitably ponder more often, I get the feeling that you're going overboard with worrying about it, and especially with worrying over whether the NAP as first principle is compatible with a workable society. It's pretty clear by now that your answer to that question is "heck no".
With that in mind, might I humbly suggest that you begin to take a more constructive approach to integrating God and family and country and NAP? Because you're honestly losing me with those suggestions that putting the NAP on a pedestal is little better than being a Communist.
To put it a bit more strongly, you seem so concerned with denouncing NAP worshippers that you've been sounding like an anti-NAP worshipper lately.
An interesting point that's been a thorn in my side lately is this notion, which I've been stumbling into at every turn, that egalitarianism was the inevitable result, through non-rational processes, of discarding the sovereignty of God as the guiding principle of law. The Charles Burris post you linked to says that envy is a factor in this process, which seems to tie in with the main topic of "Envy: a theory of social behaviour", which I just picked up. Hopefully the book's meta-analysis of the phenomenon will yield some valuable insight into the topic.
“Because you're honestly losing me with those suggestions that putting the NAP on a pedestal is little better than being a Communist.”Delete
Please cite my exact words, and provide the link from which you took the cite.
“With that in mind, might I humbly suggest that you begin to take a more constructive approach to integrating God and family and country and NAP?”
Haven’t you read my dozens posts on the European Middle Ages? Through these, I do exactly what you are suggesting.
“To put it a bit more strongly, you seem so concerned with denouncing NAP worshippers that you've been sounding like an anti-NAP worshipper lately.”
Apparently I haven’t done this enough if you haven’t yet found or understood what I have written about “God and family and country and NAP.”
I was referring to your previous post: https://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com.br/2018/01/rise-of-phoenix.html, first paragraph of the conclusion:Delete
"I grow more and more struck by something my father said many years ago, when I made a stumbling effort to describe libertarianism to him. He replied, “what, are you a communist?” As has been true in dozens of examples before and since, his replies were much more profound than was my ability to understand."
My conciliatory part wanted to interpret it as perhaps yet another criticism of pure libertarianism, ultimately leading to the same destruction of society as Communism. But the reference was a tad too gratuitous to let pass... especially considering your history of knocking on the NAP these past months.
And yes, I read (many of) your posts about the Middle Ages and they were right up my alley. I know this isn't a "vote for the next topic" section, but personally I'd enjoy it if you returned to that style. It felt more... constructive?
Though judging by your last line in the comment, maybe you've walked too far to the conservative side of "conservative libertarian" to be interested in building a bridge between the two. Fair enough. Guess I should have noticed it.
Let’s see if we can put ourselves on a more constructive and positive footing. I hope you find this possibility acceptable.
Why do I make reference to the commonality between libertarianism and communism? I will offer the following; thereafter, please let me know if you understand my point.
First, I begin with the intertwined roots – the philosophers that the two schools held in common. You will find my most direct review of this point in the following post; I would appreciate if you read it – and I apologize in advance as to the length:
You will note that it is my analysis of the confessions of an avowed left-libertarian. Which comes to my second reason: as much as we (meaning libertarians who value and see the necessity of traditional culture) might want to pretend left-libertarians aren’t really “libertarian,” the reality is that left-libertarians are extremely libertarian – after all, culture and tradition are not “property” that can be defended; culture and tradition are not subject to protection via the NAP.
You know, when I was talking to my father, I wasn’t describing free markets and taxes; I was explaining the point about why non-violent crimes aren’t crimes at all. I suspect he saw where my views about prostitution and the like would lead society. In other words, it was the culture destroying aspect that led him to his statement.
And to be clear, I would not imprison the prostitute.
Further, left-libertarians make up the majority of the vocal libertarian crowd – at least this is my experience. Am I wrong?
My point: libertarians have no philosophical weapon by which to defend culture and tradition (and, in fact, many libertarians glory in the destruction of same; I remember well the left-libertarian reaction to the gay marriage ruling); communists want to destroy culture and tradition (see Gramsci, the Frankfurt School, etc.).
As the ends of these two philosophies are the same (and for many left-libertarians, the means as well), how would you explain this? Mere random coincidence, or something deeper?
Finally, I offer this very succinct statement from a contributor in this thread:
Unhappy Conservative (2.0) January 3, 2018 at 12:51 PM
“This is where it is perfectly fair to compare libertarianism with communism. They are both materialistic ideologies, both inherently egalitarian, and both lead to the erosion of Tradition. Capitalism and Communism were in competition to see what could better provide material satisfaction and both were hostile to the old aristocratic order.”
I think it is a fair statement if you consider that someone like Hans Hoppe or Lew Rockwell is a pariah to the vast majority of people who wear the label “libertarian.”
Now, is it worth attempting to have a conversation along these lines?
"culture and tradition are not subject to protection via the NAP."Delete
But the NAP does authorize the rights to protect them via self ownership, ownership of external property, and the right of discrimination as to the use of said properties.
I really appreciated reading your article of left libertarianism. That is a great resource. Some of that was new to me, but not real surprising.
ATL, I am glad you found the article worthwhile.Delete
As to your comment re protecting culture and tradition, in my reply to you elsewhere I touch on this via Hoppe. So it might be better to continue the dialogue, if you choose to, there.
"To put it a bit more strongly, you seem so concerned with denouncing NAP worshippers that you've been sounding like an anti-NAP worshipper lately."ReplyDelete
I don't know if that is what BM is doing, but NAP worshippers SHOULD be denounced.
I look around and I see all these NAP advocates calling for aggression against me and mine. What is with that?
To test their commitment to non-initiation of aggression, BM offered these people an opportunity to demonstrate what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, by calling on them advocate for 'Open Borders for Israel'.
Specifically, these people: Jacob Hornberger, Sheldon Richman, Steven Horwitz, Jeffrey Tucker.
Despite BM being quite well known, none of these people have taken BM up on this challenge. I don't want to mind read, but I can think of 2 reasons why they don't.
1. Some in their audience would consider open borders for Israel to be detrimental to the Jewish population there, and advocacy for that would anger them.
2. These people consider open borders for Israel to be aggression and antisemitic, even though they advocate for open borders in the West.
Obviously none of the NAP worshippers can even define aggression beyond entirely subjective criteria. Walter Block makes an attempt at objective criteria by saying things like slant drilling for oil is OK - and yet it isn't OK in Texas where it would likely get you shot, and slant drilling for oil contributed to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Ultimately the NAP for the NAP worshippers will just manifest itself as might makes right. Injustice will be inflicted on outgroups because the NAP will not be applied fairly (just like open borders advocates won't apply it to the country of people of their own ethnic group).
How about this: Now a consequence of the fully realized NAP world is that all security would be private enterprise chosen by consumers on the basis of which best served to safeguard property rights and individual rights. Security would be trans-national in the same way Mercedes and Ford are trans-national. They would work on an insurance model where they would have to pay out whenever they failed to protect someone from aggression by force or fraud. In this way nation state / political actors would be driven from the marketplace along with their militaries, their police, judiciaries, prisons and so on. Trans national security providers would be incentivized to prevent the formation of new state / nation / political gangsters as they would be on the hook for any looting / shakedowns / taxations perpetrated by them. All property would become private property. Residency would be subject to private property deed restrictions and covenants enforced by private enterprise security. To Hoppes point, immigration control would return to enforcement at the local level and disappear at the national level.Delete
I have thought long and hard on 'private defense agencies' and the like and I am satisfied that in the absence of a state, private defense agencies themselves will become the state or form a state in the territories where they are active.
Far be it from me to support open borders, I completely agree with Bionic that they have nothing to do with liberty. The same for other left-"libertarian" staples like anti-discrimination laws, basic income and what have you.Delete
I think you're mixing up NAP worshippers with leftist NAP breakers, which is a shame, because the last thing the NAP needs is having leftists held up as its champions.
My criticism was aimed not at Bionic's anti-left stance, but at his anti-rationalist stance, and how it seems to have led him to the brink of denouncing the NAP as yet another misbegotten child of the Enlightenment, and ultimately not only worthless but destructive.
That, to me, is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The only way in which the NAP is egalitarian is in its extension of property rights to every (adult) person. Is this insufficient for the construction of a healthy society? Without a doubt. The NAP needs custom and it needs qualifications if it is to have a standard by which to judge "aggression", and to exist in a world where even the concept of "adult person" can be rather murky. It even makes sense to say that the NAP can only effectively exist as part of a wider body of belief and custom. And of course the NAP doesn't account for how to teach future generations to respect it. But none of that disqualifies it as a worthwhile goal.
Perhaps my reply to your other comment helped clarify things, but just in case I will also reply here; so, forgive me if this is repetitive.
“I think you're mixing up NAP worshipers with leftist NAP breakers, which is a shame, because the last thing the NAP needs is having leftists held up as its champions.”
Nilo, neither you nor I get to decide who is held up as the champions of the NAP. The vocal majority of libertarians are leftist, and the philosophy comes across as both culturally destructive and libertine. It is rare when a libertarian writes favorably of culture and tradition – and those who do are denounced mercilessly (see Hoppe).
So, I agree it is a shame…but it is the reality. I do what I can to denounce this at this blog…but I am just a mosquito.
“My criticism was aimed not at Bionic's anti-left stance, but at his anti-rationalist stance…”
The best place I have drawn this string is here:
I will gladly discuss your criticism within the context of this post.
“…ultimately not only worthless but destructive.”
Absent a grounding in tradition and culture (and of a certain type, as far as I can tell), it is destructive. And given my aforementioned comments about the majority of vocal libertarians being leftist and / or indifferent to the grounding in tradition necessary to make the NAP functional, I stand by this view.
But this is why I continue to pound on this theme; but given your comment about perhaps I should go back to other topics, you seem to prefer that I leave the left-libertarian majority alone. It is the left-libertarians that will prevent rational people from considering the philosophy.
“The NAP needs custom and it needs qualifications if it is to have a standard by which to judge "aggression", and to exist in a world where even the concept of "adult person" can be rather murky.”
It was once said that all of the libertarians in the world could fit in a phone booth. I think today it can be said that all of the libertarians who understand what you have said could fit in a phone booth.
“But none of that disqualifies it as a worthwhile goal.”
I agree. It seems you and I have a different view on the broadly defined libertarian community. You see most of them as sharing your views on tradition and culture; I do not. This is why I continue beating this drum.
The battle – and, I believe the more important battle – is regarding the issue of tradition and culture; in other words, this is the divide between libertarians as well. I have often written something to the effect: I would rather live in a neighborhood of Pat Buchanans and Walter Williams with the government as they see it than in a neighborhood of left-libertarians. I know in which neighborhood I and my children will have a future.
But this does not mean that I disqualify the NAP or throw it out. Perhaps, as I hope you will find, I have other reasons to point out its flaws….
"But this does not mean that I disqualify the NAP or throw it out. Perhaps, as I hope you will find, I have other reasons to point out its flaws…"
You have said elsewhere that you are not asking too much of the NAP but you recognize its limitations, and I agree with you that it has 'limitations,' but above you use the word 'flaws.'
I cannot build a house if my only tool is a hammer, even if that hammer is perfect in every way. The NAP, I'm convinced, is our best tool as a baseline law of behavior and as a check on power, but it cannot build a healthy society alone, as you have pointed out. A human skeleton does not make a beautiful and healthy human.
To say that the NAP is flawed because it cannot build a healthy society, is to ask why the perfect hammer cannot build the house alone. I believe you are asking too much of it.
I agree with you that it cannot prevent the left from their culturally degrading lifestyles, but neither can any form of the state when this left wing culture is widespread and politically active.
I would argue that the presence of the state encourages a more rapid and extensive progression of cultural destruction in an area already dominated by left wing mentalities (due to subsidy and license), whereas left wing areas operating under the NAP would find 'real world' resistance (they cannot survive off of the productivity of others).
ATL, I believe I was not careful in my choice of words. "Limitations" would have been a better choice.Delete
When I write a full article / essay I am usually the most careful of my wording - I might read and edit a complicated post several times, even over the course of a couple of days. And yet, being my own editor, I miss things.
I am not as careful in the comment section.
Hello Bionic and sorry for taking my time to reply... wanted to read the posts you mentioned (I wasn't familiar with your exploration of the leftist strand of libertarianism, really interesting, that) and digest the information a bit.Delete
To answer the question you put on your other reply, about left-libertarians being the main current of the movement identified as "libertarian" today: I wouldn't know if that's the case. Maybe I'm burrowed too deep in my customary sources of information (of which LRC is a cornerstone) and haven't noticed the trends in the wider world. Or maybe, not being American, my understanding of the political situation surrounding libertarianism is different. Where I live, the word "liberal" is still associated with classical liberalism, and if anything its perceived bias is towards conservatism.
So, possibly by a matter of language (though of course it could be any number of other things), most leftists here seem to spend their time criticizing "too much (economic) freedom" instead of painting themselves as *champions* of freedom, like American "liberals" and left-"libertarians" tend to do. To put it shortly, most people who identify vaguely as libertarians around here seem to be of the "guns and property" as opposed to the "sex and drugs" sort.
Which is possibly why my personal hand-wringing over the deviations of the libertarian movement run counter to yours somewhat. I see a lot of people who should know better bowing and scraping to the police, or buying into neocon idiocies; whereas you apparently see (accurately) lots of "libertarians" defending gender lunacy and open borders. And while your immediate worry is over the nasty effects of simple principle without tradition, mine also include the opposite.
I realize that you Americans also have problems with minarchists that support the war on drugs and get apoplectic when someone doesn't stand for the national anthem. Just as we have our fair share of "libertarians" who have been "left" so deranged by indoctrination that they blame all the world's troubles on a non-existent Caucasian patriarchy.
The point I want to make, regarding why anti-rationalism strikes me as just as foolish as anti-Christianity, is that both traditions are part of the Western heritage. I realize you've crossed that bridge already - for you, rationalism has nothing to do with, and cannot be reconciled, with the "good" part of Western tradition. I've seen the same point made elsewhere, in other ways. But I just can't buy it. It may be a matter of words again: denouncing rationalism isn't denouncing reason itself, but rather the notion that (human) reason can accomplish anything. But in practice, the debate is polarized NOT between:
1) fools who have come to trust in "reason" so completely that they believe changing the nature of the material world is little more than an act of will, and
2) more reasonable people who acknowledge the limitations of human abilities, including reason;
but rather between:
1) the aforementioned rabid "rationalist" fools, and
2) people who come close to rejecting reason altogether, in favor of custom and authority, even if they be arbitrary.
I refuse to pick a side between these latter two. My primary interest is in truth and I trust that the truth will prevail, if only we can stick to it, because anything that denies truth and thus reality is bound on a path of self-destruction (as I firmly believe to be the case with the leftist nutcases of our time, despite the despair of many conservatives). I'm not willing to bend "right" *more* to the right because some people are trying to bend it left.
Thanks for taking the time to read and reply.
“And while your immediate worry is over the nasty effects of simple principle without tradition, mine also include the opposite.”
This is one reason I ask the question that I ask above: I think mine also includes the opposite. I don’t suggest simple tradition without principle. When I have written of “tradition,” it has been in the context of a few ideas, for example:
The “old and good law”; the law of the Middle Ages. The “old,” of course, is the “tradition” part. But what is meant by the “good”? It was a “good” grounded in the Christian faith. I will suggest that this is the “principle” part.” Of course, this principle is not the NAP, but I will come to the connection shortly.
A few examples of “good”? Slavery was virtually unknown; serfs had rights, protected by courts specifically established for the benefit of grievances; things like witch-burnings were relatively rare (certainly when compared to the post-Reformation period). All quite compatible with the NAP.
So, when I write of tradition, it is this tradition of which I write – an “old” tradition that existed because of this “good” principle. I don’t write of child sacrifices, mutilations, etc.
What does this principle have to do with the NAP? The “old” and “good” law was also about as close to an NAP-consistent law that I have found in history. In other words, the tradition of which I write is one that respected the NAP more so than any other tradition I am aware of involving real human experience.
Both principle and tradition are, after all, useless if these do not recognize human reality.
“I realize you've crossed that bridge already - for you, rationalism has nothing to do with, and cannot be reconciled, with the "good" part of Western tradition.”
It is not clear to me why you write this, and, again, why I ask my initial question.
Was the time of the Middle Ages irrational? It was not – it was a time when reason alone was not satisfactory, and was considered incomplete without faith. I find nothing irrational about this – man still does this today, unfortunately the “faith” in which man places his trust is corrupt.
The men of the time used reason to bound tradition (while also using tradition to bound man’s “reason,” meaning bounding man’s ability to create new laws from whole cloth) – as I have described above. One balanced the other.
Post Renaissance and Reformation, man walked down the path of eliminating tradition and applauding reason alone. We are living through the end times of this transition, with the Cultural Marxists as the current high priests.
It gets worse – society, now without tradition, is today is destroying rationalism – Jordan Peterson ascribes this to postmodernist philosophy. One example should suffice – we are now meant to suffer an infinite number of made-up, artificial genders, each allowed into any public restroom of their choosing. There is nothing rational about this; it does not conform to reason.
I have written, perhaps not often enough, that there is much in the western liberal tradition that is good – however, what I believe to be correct: the primary advantage has been economic. I cannot say that it is true regarding our social, religious, cultural, or political lives. I have struggled with how to sort all of this out – as I have written before, I much prefer the law of the Middle Ages, while also preferring air conditioning of today (meaning, even the poorest among us lives better than anyone alive 700 years ago).
Is it possible to have the “old and good law” of the Middle Ages with the air conditioning of today? I don’t know, but I will keep thinking on it.
However, there is no doubt: today the state controls far more of my life and takes far more of my wealth than occurred during much of the Middle Ages – even to a serf. Tradition has been destroyed and now even reason is being destroyed.
And we are the poorer for it, as relative wealth and poverty cannot be measured solely in terms of the availability of air conditioning.
Ignore the opening line of my opening paragraph. I edited a preamble out of this comment, but didn't edit out this statement.Delete
Being that Professor Block is associated with the Mises Institute*, including long friendships with people like Rothbard and Rockwell, and having listened to numerous interviews and talks by him, I think that his personal ethos is much more than simply the "one true faith" of the non-aggression principle.ReplyDelete
Reflecting on this post again this morning I was reminded of a particularly moving portion of C.S. Lewis's The Pilgrim's Regress. Unfortunately I do not have a copy on hand to refresh my memory, but in one of the most important passages for me the Pilgrim encountered a group of modern philosophers, all stand-ins for various actual thinkers including Kant and others whom I have forgotten. The philosophers supposedly lived only by their rationalistic, materialistic creeds but were actually sustained by retreating each night to various cultural and religious traditions. Though I don't want to presume, perhaps this is so for Professor Block. Maybe his own Jewish heritage provides such support as it clearly has for many others who consider themselves merely "secular" Jews but cling to ancient traditions. I also hope that libertarians, having seen the futility of the path of "pure" liberalism ended long ago in Thermidorian France, will return, like Lewis's Pilgrim, to Mother Kirk. I've been fascinated in the last few years to hear some libertarians turning from libertinism toward traditional morality at the same time that Christians, perhaps too late, are realizing that their enemies is not Democrats or "liberals," but the state.
I have only been reading your blog for a few months, BM, with occasional dives into the archives but I wonder if you are familiar with Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age? Stephenson appears to have considered many of the cultural struggles a society radically "freed" by technology might face and, of the many SF futures I have read, it seems perhaps the best case scenario for the next century.
*Which I often think of with great affection as a nest of Jacobite Catholics and anti-unionist Southern Protestants.
"I think that his personal ethos is much more than simply the "one true faith" of the non-aggression principle."Delete
Of this I am quite certain and did not mean to imply otherwise.
As to the novel, I have not read it. I will look into it. As to what I have read (and written about at this blog), try the Bibliography tab at the top of the page.
And thank you for reading and commenting.
>Maybe his own Jewish heritage provides such support as it clearly has for many others who consider themselves merely "secular" Jews but cling to ancient traditions. I also hope that libertarians, having seen the futility of the path of "pure" liberalism ended long ago in Thermidorian France,Delete
Bingo, gold star for you friendo. I have no doubt that the jewish psyche is at play here. Namely jews feel confident that they will remain intact through the dissolution of race and culture that they promote. They do not worry about society's laws and norms affecting them because they follow their own laws.
BM, great article. Thanks for enabling such fascinating discussion.Delete
Please do consider reading The Diamond Age. I suspect you'll find it useful, perhaps even inspiring. (Doug Casey likes to riff on it when addressing crowds.)
Neal Stephenson is brilliant. I continually fail to discover a more learned novelist than he. Unlike nearly all SF writers, he treats private property and free market economics as necessary to functioning societies in the age of information, or rather, in the the diamond age.
Compare the world of the The Diamond Age to David Brin's Existence and/or Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End. All three are thoughtful, entertaining visions of a future with high technology, but only the world of The Diamond Age contains an economic scenario capable of producing said technology.
I can't recommend it more. Touche Severian Inquisivit.
Wew lads, this comment section blew up fast. Looks like BM struck a nerve.ReplyDelete
Block has been referring to libertarianism as the "one true faith" for quite some time now. There is no doubt an element of play to his usage as that's his style generally. For instance Block is fond, as so many libertarians are, of using extreme examples to defend a principle (their only principle). So he will say things like: the only thing wrong with slavery is you can't leave, or you can gas all the Jews you want if you can get them to agree to it (lol). That being said he is no doubt serious. What I take him to mean is that, from a big-picture perspective, it doesn't matter what *else* you believe or don't believe in as long as you accept the rationalist creed of libertarianism. Since in his view everything can be reconciled through libertarianism (nap).
This perspective is peak modernism. It is the elevation of reason far beyond its correct sphere as it presupposes that all men are capable of reason and that it can prevail over other facts of life and History. I frequently bring race into the discussion since it is a determining factor in both the upper and lower bounds of what is possible, as well as a competing object of allegiance to the atomic God of Reason (Ayn Rands God- who "coincidently" chose her tribe to be given special exemptions) but, as some commenters to this post have pointed out it is also in competition with transcendental conceptions of truth and law. So while Block can say that no other creed or allegiance is at odds with the NAP *provided that the competition also accepts the NAP* the NAP as a universal idea remains at odds with every other conception of truth and justice.
This is where it is perfectly fair to compare libertarianism with communism. They are both materialistic ideologies, both inherently egalitarian, and both lead to the errorsion of Tradition. Capitalism and Communism were in competition to see what could better provide material satisfaction and both were hostile to the old aristocratic order.
Finally, leaving aside the moral/spiritual questions regarding the world of predation and degeneracy Block defends in his book we need to consider, as always, the political question. BM is 100% correct that a "society" taken from the chapter titles of DtU would not be free. If man is ruled by his appetites then he is slave not just to his pleasures but to the *people who provide them.* There is a reason these things exist now in the capitalist/liberal west, they serve the oligarchs by making the people into cattle. This is why when the Israelis occupied the West Bank in the early 2000s one of the first things they did was pump pornography through the Palestinian stations (pornography as a weapon is a jewish speciality btw, see E Michael Jones).
If your idea of freedom is going to lead to slavery, culture distortion, and tyranny maybe it's time to read different books.
Start with this one: https://archive.org/details/LibidoDominandiSexualLiberationPoliticalControlE.MichaelJones2000
UC, I appreciate your succinct statement re libertarianism and communism. I will use it as a portion of a subsequent comment I will post in this thread.Delete
UC, I'm not sure I agree that even Block's "plumb line" libertarianism is necessarily egalitarian. It was not until leaving conservatism and becoming libertarian that I even entertained the ideas of non-aggressive hierarchy and "natural aristocracy" as part of a well-ordered society. (That may seem implausible, but I was sort of a Jeffersonian paleo-con, I guess.) Clearly there is no place for such things to exist openly and honestly in a democracy or universal suffrage quasi-repulic, where instead elitism is masked and ignored and devolves into plutocratic oligarchy. But other than misunderstanding the idea of "equality before the law"—i.e. the NAP applies to everyone—I don't understand how libertarianism qua libertarianism is egalitarian.Delete
>Clearly there is no place for such things to exist openly and honestly in a democracy or universal suffrage quasi-repulic, where instead elitism is masked and ignored and devolves into plutocratic oligarchy.Delete
Well put, I have nothing to add to that
>other than "equality before the law"
Well this is the egalitarianism of America on paper. Block takes it a step further by being a defacto internationalist who doesn't believe this should apply exclusively to members of the racial/cultural community (nation) and should extend to the entire world.
My personal preference would be for a kind of tier system of citizenship either by birth or merit where people proven to be loyal to the Nation-idea are afforded more rights and privilege to participate in government.
Compared with the pre-enlightenement European political tradition Jefferson was an egalitarian radical and Block is even more radical.
"My personal preference would be for a kind of tier system of citizenship either by birth or merit where people proven to be loyal to the Nation-idea are afforded more rights and privilege to participate in government."Delete
I believe that in a libertarian stateless society, something like what you've described above would occur. All would live under the same laws, but those who've attained great reputations would have 'more say' than the rest simply by virtue of others holding more respect for their opinions.
Those judges who've proven to hold to the law rather than favoritism, would likewise also have more respect and patronage from clients. You could say that these men and women would have more 'governing privileges' than others because 1) they've dedicated their lives to making this their profession, and 2) they've conducted themselves skillfully and honorably in adjudicating disputes in line with established laws and social norms.
NAP is best understood as the rationale for sweeping away the privilege made possible by the state and its monopoly granting regime. NAP is a reaction against the mercantilism and later cartelization the nation state made possible. Rothbard explains this in detail in his 6 part lecture series available on youtube beginning withReplyDelete
I did myself a favor years ago by skipping over the lengthy blog posts by Block at LRC. His theory justifying abortion is pure sophistry, and if he's so wrong about an issue that is so basic, well, I just don't have time for him. The Church has continuously pointed out that failure to defend life in the womb would lead to the debasement of all life at all stages. Experience has borne it out. Pun not intended.ReplyDelete
If you have an interest and you haven't previously read it, I offer my rebuttal to Block and his view on abortion hding behind a mask of evictionism. I approach it purely on private property grounds, but I agree that a philosophy that purports to deal with aggression and yet does not view abortion as the initiation of aggression is a philosophy doomed to violence.Delete
In other words, abortion is the initiation of aggression - it need not take as many words as I have written in the referenced post to make this point.
Thanks for the link. I plan to read it now. The comments above mention E. Michael Jones, which I would also recommend. They also mention an article by Burris about envy. Not sure how references to Gary North are received here lately, but Gary wrote an entire book about the politics of envy over 30 years ago which I read during my free time while attending the undergraduate alma mater of Bill Clinton. I have mentioned Gary in two of my comments here at BM (the other being his book the Dominion Covenant about oaths), and I don't mean to become his cheerleader, but some of his early work did influence my thinking.Delete
Ha! - After following the link, I realize that it might of been one of the first BM articles I ever read. And, I have continued to visit this site through the present. Thank you for all the great writing during that period. Looking forward to 2018 at BM.Delete
Wait until tomorrow...Delete
And thank you for both reading and commenting for this extended period. This blog is nothing without the contributions of those who choose to advance the dialogue.
Regarding North...I am fine with references to him (except for Max, who references him with nary a value-added comment of his own).Delete
My view of him as a person (which he exposed fully in his attack of me, but which I had a sense of beforehand) I can keep separate (I think) from my views of him as a scholar and writer.
I think Block even gets “pure” evictionism wrong. I would have to review Anglo-American common law (which is pretty much always the case), but I believe for innocent or unintentional trespass, safe passage must be provided by the property owner.ReplyDelete
I linked above to what is arguably E Michael Jones' magnum opus but I do recognize it's very long (totally worth it tho, also consider actually buying it from EMJ to support him) so here is a good interview of him with talking about the book.ReplyDelete