Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Doesn’t really roll off of the tongue, does it.  Well, one of you can work on branding.

The comments to my recent post, The Libertarian Movement, offer a wide variety of opinions and views on the topic (even one that I didn’t publish, suggesting that I start a blog on cooking); of course, this wide variety was already quite evident within the very broad community that identifies as libertarian.

I will address some of the comments from the aforementioned thread; let’s just say that it is clear that there is not today (and perhaps can never be) a thing called a “libertarian movement.”  So…let’s begin.


Victor February 10, 2018 at 12:54 PM

…the libertarian problem is how to completely dismantle political power of any and every kind in order that all service, particularly security and justice are mediated exclusively within and by a free market.

Victor, I get this.  But just saying it ain’t gonna make it so.  I have spent much of my focus over the last few years on the question of “how”; what conditions / pre-conditions are necessary?

Victor, my question to you: How?  Don’t tell me what’s wrong with my view of how – what is yours?


Victor February 12, 2018 at 11:03 AM

Offering a quote from Randall Holcombe:

When the founders created this country, the underlying philosophy of American government was liberty.

For much of my life I believed this to be true.  I still believe that some of the founders believed it to be true.  I have come to conclude there was no chance it could be true, given the philosophy of sand upon which it was built.

Once man decided to make law (legislate), liberty was doomed.  It is as simple as this.  This is what made and makes a “state.”

What the founders meant by liberty was freedom from government oppression.

It is difficult to read the Constitution and believe this.  In any case, this might have been true for a minority of the founders; it certainly wasn’t true of the majority.  And to the extent it was true, it all came crashing down even during the time of the founding generation.

Hard to believe that they really meant “freedom from government oppression” when this freedom didn’t survive their own time in office.


Victor February 12, 2018 at 2:58 PM

The paradox is that though rights based discourse developed in the West, by no means have Western societies ever been fully or even mostly free.

(Look, I promise that this post won’t just be a dialogue with Victor…this is the last one.)

Victor, I get this.  I have spent much of my focus over the last several years on the question of “compared to what?”  Because you don’t get to preach about utopia at this site.

The society that came closest (and lasted for a meaningfully extended period) to this libertarian ideal is that of the European Middle Ages.  I have written about this dozens of times; I have asked just as many times for someone to challenge this – not that the society was libertopia; just that it came closest in a world populated by humans.

So…Victor…compared to what?  Or do you have a better example.  Because talking about libertopia isn’t sufficient in a world of humans.  I want the truth.  And, yes…I can handle the truth.


Anonymous February 11, 2018 at 5:51 PM

Are there going to be times that we right-libertarians side with (work with) left-libertarians (about 5% of the time - your stat)? And then other times when we do not (about 95% of the time - your stat)?

Do we become discerning like Rothbard and choose our battles and friends (and enemies) well? And change allegiances as needed or as circumstances change? Or does some objective truth or guiding principles forbid us from doing so? Working through all of this myself too with you.

I want nothing to do with the cultural aspects of the left.  I do not say I wish such aspects were made illegal; I do not say such aspects are unforgivable.  I merely say I do not want to advocate for, or live in, a world that looks like their libertarian ideal. 

I also know that such a world will only enhance government control.  I will cite Sagunto February 12, 2018 at 12:48 AM, but I agree with this view:

So from the moment [libertarianism] allows left-"libertarians" any space inside the tent, the NA principle becomes a self-destructive concept.

I can make common cause with those who advocate for political decentralization and those who are anti-war / anti-empire.  The thing is…there are many non-libertarians who hold these views - in numbers, perhaps far more than libertarians.  There are libertarians against these views in any case.

There are many lessor (in my mind) issues with which to make common cause - cut spending and taxes, reduce regulation, decriminalize non-violent offenses, stop subsidizing family destroying behavior.  Of course, I don’t really know how to get any of this done without engaging with the system in some manner.  Eventually (within the lifetime of anyone reading this post today) it will mean engaging politically.  No one is going to hand you these things without a little political effort on your part.


JaimeInTexas February 11, 2018 at 8:29 AM

Without a common culture or understanding of what is libertarianism, how can libertarians use the word we?  They must first go through a litany of issues to be agreed.

Jaime, this gets to the heart of the matter.  In order to be blessed with the label “libertarian,” one need agree on only one thing – and it is a thing he is against.  It is a “thou shalt not.”   Thou shalt not initiate aggression.  (Setting aside, of course, the complexity inherent in the term “aggression.”)

Every revolution is made up of people joined in a common “thou shalt not.”  In other words, they all agree that the current rulers / scheme / paradigm “shalt not” exist any longer; they agree on what they are fighting against.  Yet, none of the revolutionaries agree on the “thou shalt,” on the thing(s) on which they are fighting for.

There is no libertarian “thou shalt” because there can be no libertarian “thou shalt.”  Unfortunately, “thou shalt not” has never formed a sustained community.  And without community, there is no civilization – a drastically more significant issue than the violations of the NAP most westerners live under today.


Anonymous February 11, 2018 at 11:58 AM

I'm going to suggest there is a very real possibility that if Rothbard found a way to stick around Cato, or at least maintain SOME kind of relationship, that he might have had a significantly positive influence on them, compared to what they are today

You know, it’s is also likely that had Rothbard done this we would not have the same Mises Institute that we have today – maybe none at all.  So, sorry to disagree – I am glad Rothbard went his own way.  If there is any libertarian future worth hoping for, it is the picture as painted by the Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell.  And this libertarianism is built on a foundation of Rothbard – the same Rothbard that Cato would just as soon crucify for their 30 pieces of silver (yes, I chose the metaphor purposefully, although I do not hold Rothbard out as the equivalent of the Messiah).



This is the libertarian movement: the giant stream of mankind going around and over the barriers and dams of the state as we head to the open sea of freedom.

It is a life well-lived if one can increase his personal freedom, the freedom of his family, and – most importantly – properly educate his children on the same.  If one accomplishes nothing more, he will have been a tremendous service to society (in the best sense of the term).

But it is no crime to also work to present something more – to demonstrate to both his children and society that there is a path to freedom and liberty, one that is built on a specific cultural tradition.


Ted Weiland February 12, 2018 at 6:05 AM

Liberty was formally lost in America when the 18th-century Enlightenment founders made liberty a goal (almost a god)…

Ted, when you first started posting such things here, I thought you were half-nuts.  Suffice it to say, the proportion of your nuttiness (in my view) has gone way down since then, given the path I have taken. 

Thank you for continuing to contribute.  I mean this sincerely.


Anonymous February 12, 2018 at 5:11 PM

Limiting such social behavior in a small community of like-minded people, I agree may result in a peaceful community but I do not see how it can be called “libertarian” (according to Smiths definition) if it allows or promotes aggression to do so….

Sometimes a good punch in the nose in response to a verbal attack is the best way to ensure that a libertarian community stays libertarian.  Further, the restrictions on behavior within a covenant community will look draconian to those on the outside, yet look like liberty to those on the inside.

Would I find liberty in a community that allowed sex orgies on the front lawn?  Hardly, despite the practice not being a violation of the NAP.

…nor do I see how it can achieve world peace over a larger area by attempting to dominate or outlaw undesirable behavior using aggression to do so.

If you are looking for world peace, you have come to the wrong place.  There is nothing in the NAP that will eliminate conflict.  The NAP is a rule, a principle, a law – nothing more.  There will always be outlaws willing to dominate.

I can see an endless progression of conflict such as the “30 years war” but perhaps I am myopic in this regards.

Go back to a time before the 30 Years’ War; the time of a very decentralized Europe, one with the Church as a competing governance institution.  Yes, there were conflicts – as there will always be as long as humans are human.  But these were local and only involved the conflicted parties and those sworn by oath to them.


Woody Barrett February 12, 2018 at 11:48 AM

So far as governance is concerned, that implies a monopoly on coercion – at least in a given geographic area. If you think about it, monopolies of coercion exist even in libertarian and anarchistic thinking – after all, who controls coercion within a parcel of property if not the property owner? Monopolies of coercive power must always exist regardless of political theory whether or not the individual choses to exercise that power.

Woody, you get the prize…almost – and maybe this is just a point of clarification and not a disagreement; specifically to your comment: “…who controls coercion within a parcel of property if not the property owner?”

This, as many readers here know, was a rather strong point of contention that I had with a well-known libertarian writer.  I agree that the property owner controls coercion within his property, but he is limited by a couple of things. 

First, he is limited by the NAP: he is not free to deter or punish a violation on his property by any means he chooses.  His means might be so egregious relative to the offense that it constitutes, in its own right, an initiation of aggression.  (See the following for an example.)

Second, he is limited by the traditions and norms of the community within which he lives – at least if he wants to live.  In other words, he cannot shoot a child for stealing an apple because this would pretty much ensure that the father of the child and the neighbors in the community would shoot the bastard for shooting a child for stealing an apple.

Some might not deem this to be “libertarian,” but as I mentioned above, sometimes a good punch in the nose is the best means by which a libertarian society can stay “libertarian.”  Call this extreme “shunning” in defense of property rights.


Sagunto February 12, 2018 at 12:53 PM

That is one of the reasons why I keep making the distinction between Western Civilization, which refers to a specific set of unique historical circumstances present at about the geographical location that I happen to be commenting from right now ;) and the cultural values that for a long time were embedded in the fabric of some European nations..


today's "West," which boils down to something quite different (modern fantasies about "democracy"), as I described in my posts about Eric Voegelin's analysis of modern Gnosticism.

I will believe that left-libertarians are libertarian if they state clearly that they respect the rights of those who choose to form a decentralized society based on Western Civilization – the patriarchy, traditional Christian values, etc.  They need not join in; they can have their own “safe space” in their own decentralized society.

So now we are getting somewhere.  Which leads me to (and you were wondering about the title of this post)…


A Texas Libertarian February 12, 2018 at 4:00 PM

…if both cultural left and right libertarians can get together to carve out a libertarian order, where each can have their exclusive society as they see fit…

In other words…



  1. "You know, it’s is also likely that had Rothbard done this we would not have the same Mises Institute that we have today – maybe none at all. So, sorry to disagree – I am glad Rothbard went his own way. "

    It's ok, we can disagree and still be friends.


    I disagree with your assessment that the left and right libertarian only share 5% in common goals, but it's a somewhat subjective metric and in the big scheme I'm not sure that important.

    For the record, if Rothbard maintaing any kind of relationship with Cato was an "either/or" proposition as far as the Mises Institute went, I'd always pick the existence of the Mises Institute, but I don't see it that way.

    In the big picture, I fit in with the right libertarians(and you) culturally speaking despite the minor differences of opinion on the above and I'm glad to see you champion decentralization as the solution to to cultural differences.

    Let the leftists learn the hard way what a predominantly libertine society yields once again- as long as we don't have to suffer for it.

  2. Excellent follow-ups, bm. Thank you.

  3. Great discussion. I believe it is abundantly clear that libertarianism in principle is decentralization in practice.

    How about the Decentralist Movement, instead of -izationism? Polyarchy, polyarchism? The Polyarchist Movement.

  4. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c2a1.htm

    The person and society from the Papists!

    I do disagree that the “state” is necessary, but governance through some more formal means is, unless as Mises taught the “state” can be dismembered voluntarily—Decentralizationism through Subsidiarity.


  5. I love these musings bionic. Historian Brion McClanahan has stated that Jefferson considered the first part of the Declaration of Independence as a kind of throw away line, grabbed on by the Jaffaites.

    The most important part of the document was the last paragraph:

    "We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

  6. Hi BM,

    I am all for decentralization, but the quote from ATL sounds more like segregation to me.

    1. Ha! I was just making it abundantly clear that people would be free to segregate if they chose to. I think living in a libertarian society would end up being more or less how it is now in that you would work around and do business with people of diverse beliefs, but then you could go home to and raise up your kids in a community of like minded people. The main difference being you wouldn't have to suffer under the laws and expropriations of others. Cities would probably still have extreme heterogeneity, while surrounding communities would be, at least to some degree, more homogeneous.

  7. "Woody, you get the prize…almost ..."
    I am honored!

    "... maybe this is just a point of clarification and not a disagreement; specifically to your comment: '…who controls coercion within a parcel of property if not the property owner?'"

    I did clarify this in your "Libertarian Movement" post for ATL, Bionic but I will paraphrase here.

    My own interpretation of the NAP is simply this - since the NAP's purpose is to place a limit on violence and aggression, a more positive addendum would be that we should discipline ourselves to limit aggression and violence to the minimum necessary to rectify the situation.

    In the classic "Child steals an apple" thought experiment, we have a plethora of choices much less violent than death - the action is only limited by the imagination. Certainly we should take into account the consequences of our action, such as possible retribution from the parents, when choosing our actions.

    All of this goes back to a point I made in my "Libertarian Movement" post: self-discipline is necessary to acquire and keep a free society and some of the points raised in "Defending the Undefendable" would tend to lessen self-discipline.

    Self-discipline is a requirement for the free man if he expects to remain and maximize his freedom. Simply fulfilling every gratification - such as taking an apple because you want one - is not conducive to avoiding consequences that will curtail one's freedom. An extreme example of such a consequence would be the removal of a hand for theft as is practiced in traditional Muslim culture. While that may be over the top for most of us here, it is certainly within the Walter Block interpretation of the NAP.

    We must understand though, that some of those "Undefendable" things are better left alone, since the consequences of their restriction would tend to increase violence in society. Depression-era Prohibition, for example, greatly increased violence even though the use of liquor (or any addictive or mind-altering substance) is not conducive to self-discipline.

    Therefore, each thing must be examined not only in the light of how it would affect our self-discipline but also in regards to the consequences that allowing or disallowing that thing would have on society in general - which I suppose would be something that a decentralized societal unit could best accomplish.

    But, in decentralization, we encounter another problem: how do we come together to defend ourselves from outside aggression? I have proposed one solution in an earlier post - there may be others that are better.

  8. BM,

    I see you've chosen the name! I like it. Let me just say that aside from being a Texas libertarian, I am also (now) a Texas decentralizationist! For a few years I've come to believe that secession from DC is the only hope for the future of Texas liberty and culture. I'd love to see Texas as a mutual defense confederation of city-states like ancient Greece, but without the despotism and slavery.

    "There is no libertarian “thou shalt” because there can be no libertarian “thou shalt.""

    I'm not so sure you are correct with your criticisms of negative liberty. There are plenty of libertarian "thou shalts" that are derived from the principal "thou shalt not." For instance, thou shalt abide: self ownership, private property rights, peace, free trade, and free association (to name a few); these are all things a libertarian should be for.

    Besides Christianity can be defined largely in the negative as well. Most of the ten commandments are negative (thou shalt not: steal, kill, bear false witness, covet your neighbor's wife, covet your neighbor's possessions, etc.), and yet Christian institutions built quite long lasting and prosperous civilizations. =)

    Now I'm not saying libertarianism has the same life and civilization building capacities as Christianity. Christianity gives people meaning beyond death. Liberty cannot compete on this level as a means of bringing people together in the face of the uncertainties of life and death, but it can, in my consideration, complement the 'good news' and help keep it inoculated against the corrupting influence of monopolized human law and order.

    "sometimes a good punch in the nose is the best means by which a libertarian society can stay “libertarian.”"

    Most punches in the nose don't concern the authorities in today's America. It would be the same in a libertarian society. As a man, you learn to measure your words with a bit of respect around other men due to the disutility of getting decked in the face. I believe a libertarian order would do nothing to harm the effectiveness or prevalence of 'guy codes' like this.

    1. ATL, I truly appreciate your comments and our dialogue.

      I am working through a post that may end up walking through this field of the NAP vs (and I don't mean "vs" in an adversarial way) Christianity.

      Then again, the post may not end up there - I never know for sure when I start writing exactly where I will end up...Jordan Peterson says that you can't really know what you think without writing and talking and getting feedback. Before I started writing regularly I wouldn't have understood this.

  9. Greetings! I have been following your blog for at least a year now with great interest. I learned of it through LRC, which I have been reading since the turn of the century.

    I find your open musings on practical libertarianism (that word, by the way, does not exist in Firefox's spellchecker dictionary by default -- something interesting on its own) / decentralizationism / disestablishmentarianism to be valuable and worth thinking about on my own -- and sharing with others similarly-minded.

    I think that those of us who are similarly liberty-minded have two major conundrums to wrestle with: How do we get to "there" from here (and for the purposes of this comment I'm going to define "there" as "genuine liberty for all"), and how do we stay "there".

    I think that your observation that, however we get "there", we will not be able to stay "there" without a common culture, is one with merit and needs to be considered.

    As for how we get "there" in the first place, I think that the answer is: "we" do not. Not as a group. Not as a nation, or a state, or a county, or a city, or a neighborhood. It starts with each one of us, living our lives in accordance with our best principles. "To thine own self be true," in other words.

    I honestly do not see the current world order making it another 100 years. Not even 50. It actually is not my intention to introduce "doom porn" into this discussion, and I could very easily be wrong on this point. But I do believe that it is not going to be possible for "us" to get "there" until after that has occurred. And in the meantime, each one of us ought, IMO, to stay true to our own selves. To be in the world, but not of it. To bring comfort to the afflicted. And to do our very best -- within *reason* -- to be in a position to survive the coming SHTF scenario, IF it comes within our lifetimes. And if it does not, to continue to live our lives such that we are the best people that we can be. This may mean that one or more of us may feel the same call that Ron Paul did, to try to change the system from within, however small or great that change may be. It is certainly not my calling, but I would not dissuade anyone else who I thought exhibited the same own-self-truthfulness as did Ron Paul.

    Keep the faith, exhibit the faith, be a shining city on a hill for all around you. Agree to disagree when disagreements arise, and try to settle those disagreements as civilly as possible. Work ever towards the end goal of civilization. And just to be clear, I see "the state" as being the antithesis of civilization, of humanity, and of life itself.

    I don't see "getting there" happening anytime within the lifetime of anyone reading these words, but I do think it is eventually possible. But only if we make as positive an impact on our fellow man as we can.


    1. "It starts with each one of us, living our lives in accordance with our best principles."

      I agree. Talk the talk and walk the walk (to the extent walking the walk is possible in a world of mud).

      And raise healthy children.

      Beyond this, it is in God's hands.

  10. Bionic,

    I can understand your desire for a compatible community and agree it would probably be easier to have a harmonious relationship with your neighbors if all are of a similar lifestyle, philosophy or religion. IF you started with this concept and restricted the people joining or buying property, such as a HOA or a gated community, I think this would be wonderful and whatever rules you establish, Christian, libertine or Moslem would be voluntary and acceptable to the libertarian concept.

    If you attempt to expand this protected area against those who disagree and aggression is used to facilitate this expansion, then you have violated the NAP and would of course violate libertarian principles, IMO.

    Of course the current state would make this difficult or impossible, regardless of what rules you applied internally and the dangerous areas would be those areas that are contiguous with an opposing lifestyle.

    Your concept is not totally different from those areas in Europe where I understand there are some “no go” areas for non Moslems. Still, if they own the property, so be it. Same with your desired community.

    A side note on your sex pervert neighbors. Maybe some areas need to be “open range” and some “closed range” as relates to the view shed. The responsibility to “fence in” or “fence out” the activities would depend upon the previous agreement of the community.

    Decentralizationianism is a concept I can buy, if it’s voluntary. Good luck and again, thanks for the mind expanding dialog.


    1. Tahn

      I have never advocated force. I do know that if the government stayed out of property matters, the means of forming communities around common cultures would happen voluntarily.

      Further, unless this topic - the intersection of liberty and culture - is discussed...well, it won't be discussed.

  11. https://reason.com/blog/2018/02/13/democracy-in-chains-author-nancy-maclean

    Is she right?

    1. I don't know. I will get back to you after my Ritalin kicks in.

      In all seriousness, she has her head up her (you know what).

  12. "In all seriousness, she has her head up her (you know what)."

    I almost spewed out my drink as I read this, bm. And no, I do not want to know what.