Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Revolutionary Essence of the State

The argument of this book is that the single most decisive influence upon Western social organization has been the rise and development of the centralized territorial state.

You will get no argument from me.  But why?  What influences brought this on, or what other influences had to be crushed in order that it could be brought on?  These are the questions that must be explored if one is to hope to move toward a society grounded in liberty and free from the state.

The State today has become the institution of supreme allegiance for man and the refuge from all of life’s uncertainties.  Man today considers the “State” and “society” as synonymous, as one and the same being.  Society is no longer comprised of decentralized and varied social institutions: family, church, guild, kin, the university.  Each role has been taken over by the State.

The State also cannot be regarded as the natural extension of these decentralized social institutions; it was not by voluntary choice that these institutions gave up authority.  Instead, the aggrandizement of the State took place in forceful opposition to these very same institutions.

While the beginnings of the State can be found even while these decentralized institutions held authority, what can truly be identified as the State as we have come to know it might have best been exemplified in Revolutionary France.  In the intervening centuries, one will find the transition.

Nisbet refers to Walter Lippmann, who offers that the State is absolute power, and it matters not if this power is exercised by a king, a landed aristocracy, bankers, soldiers, or a majority of voters.  When the State has absolute authority to make war, make peace, to conscript life, to establish and disestablish property, to tax, to punish, to control education, then there is no need to differentiate between communists, fascists and democrats.

Where there were once many social barriers in between the power claimed by the monarch and that which the monarch could exercise, the State knows no such distinction.  Where once the guilds, various associations, the Church and most importantly family and kinship held sway, all was consumed by State power and authority. 

If any entity has achieved emancipation through this revolutionary transition, it is the State – emancipated from any authority above or even parallel to it.  The State – unlike the medieval king – was above the law; the State – unlike the medieval king – made the law.

Here We Go Again…

So much is buried in the following:

The liaison between Luther and the German princes was more than a relation of temporary expediency.  It was very nearly indispensable to the rise of a reformed Christianity which made the individual the prime unit.

I could write 500 words on this, but I have probably already written 50,000.  So I will write a few words without (I believe) treading on any of the same ground.  I am not writing of eternal salvation here, but of libertarian life on this earth.  (You will note in the following, clearly, some broad generalizations; from all I have seen, I think the generalization are reasonably valid.)

It seems to me clear enough that it was in Protestant thought that the individual stood alone in front of God; the individual was “the prime unit.”  For this reason, there are libertarians who see in the Reformation and in the Protestant concept of man’s relationship to God the roots of libertarianism.

On the other hand, there are libertarians who see in this transition away from the Catholic Church the roots of tyranny and the destruction of liberty.  Libertarians such as these see in the elimination of intermediating institutions the path toward one supreme power – a tyrant.

I think one’s view on this depends on one’s belief in the strength of the individual to stand against power; the “Reformation” libertarians (for lack of a better term) believe that man can stand free absent any other intermediating institutions – in fact, only in the absence of any intermediating institutions can an individual be considered free. 

The “Catholic” (medieval) libertarians believe that it is in the diffusion of power into several competing and overlapping governance institutions where one’s freedom will be best preserved.

Nisbet offers, and obviously I agree, that it is the latter: one is free to be “oppressed” by an omnipotent State, or free to be “oppressed” by competing governance institutions (king, Church, guild, family, kin, community, etc.).  One is not free to select a third alternative, as there will be no vacuum.  In no livable society has there ever been a vacuum; there will always be hierarchies of power and authority.

Ancient Greece and Rome

…so as not to pick solely on Luther…

One can find the same conflict among libertarians regarding the rebirth of Roman law – a rebirth that came out of this transition from the medieval to the modern.  Roman law recognized the State and the individual, with no recognition of any intermediating institutions not sanctioned by Roman law.  This distinction can be easily applied to the aforementioned conflict.

Nisbet goes on to examine these processes at work in ancient Greece, with the role of pure reason to be found in Socrates; the radical individualism of Plato possible only in Platonic communism and an absolute State – an antagonism not against the individual but against any social unit that is not the State (a story to be repeated by Hobbes).

Then on to Rome, where Nisbet points to the civil wars of the first century B.C. as an almost ceaseless conflict between the State and the intermediate units of family and other associations.  The existence of any social group outside of the State was seen as a risk to State power.

Individual Rights

The idea of individual rights was born with the growth of the monopoly State:

In the medieval world there was relatively little concern with positive, discrete rights of individuals, largely because of the diffuseness of political power and the reality of innumerable group authorities.

This worry of individual rights was not necessary because no one individual or group had absolute authority; the law and society were quite decentralized, and in this any single individual had many avenues through which to seek redress.  The idea of individual, “constitutional,” rights only came forward with the growth of the State. 

The Magna Carta was not necessary in the England of decentralized power under the Anglo-Saxon kings.  It was only after the Norman Conquest, led by William the Conqueror, that such a document was demanded.  William, who took claim to all property as his after his victory, changed fundamentally the nature of man to the law in England.

At the same time, it cannot be denied that the states which formed such constitutions, guaranteeing the rights of individuals, advanced more quickly in terms of economy and military might.  Of course, if economic and military might were the measure of liberty, no one in the West would have any reason to complain for the last several centuries.

So, we see in the State both authoritarian and libertarian realities.  But, we have also seen which one wins in the long run.  In perhaps its most successful experiments – Britain and the United States – such individual freedom lasted perhaps decades at most, from its peak in the late eighteenth century until its destruction in 1865 in the United States and 1914 in Great Britain (and all of Europe).  Since then, authoritarianism has reigned supreme.


Who can doubt that from this conflict of State with other associations in society have come some of the most important humanitarian gains and personal liberties in Western culture?  But who can doubt, either, that from the same conflict, from this same, ongoing process of revolution, have come problems of balance of authority in society and problems of associative and personal freedom which are very nearly overwhelming at the present time?

It seems to me that both personal liberty and humanitarian gain are possible without the State.  One need only accept that there is not one law for all mankind, that there is not one concept of liberty for all mankind, that there is not one standard of aggression for all mankind. 

One need only accept that liberty for the individual will only be found in liberty for the group – the group of voluntarily formed communities based on custom, culture, and tradition.  One need only accept that this common culture is best left in the hearts and minds of the community members and not reduced to “contract,” as contracts such as these, like constitutions, are useful only to the powerful.

One need only accept tolerance in its most consistent application – not my tolerance of your diversity, but your tolerance of my discrimination.  Allow me this and I will allow you the same.

From this, we might find liberty.


  1. I believe the state to be mankind's biggest mistake and Satan's most evil con. The lie that is the state has led to death, genocide, tyranny, and misery.

    We must find a way to do away with the state, or I fear mankind will not survive.

    PS: good post by the way.

    1. Hi MS,

      Agreed about doing away with the state, but would that really put an end to your fears? And why? Cheers, Sagunto

    2. "... but would that really put an end to your fears? And why?"

      Throughout history, small tribes and groups have never been about to start a world war or to threaten totally destruction of life on this planet. Small tribes have never been able, as far as we know, to create a dystopia. Even a small tyranny with small tribes has been rare as hen's teeth.

      Now, nothing is perfect and humans are darn sure a dangerous beast. But the state gives some of the beasts enormous power over others. That is dangerous and that is the fear.

    3. MS, thank you for that follow up.

      I'll take small tribe warring over big state world war anytime! What about an intermediate step of just smaller states (can't imagine Switzerland, or Holland for that matter, threatening world peace), wouldn't that be a doable move in the right direction? If so, the fragmentation of big and powerful states (US first and foremost) should have top priority.

      Same with the disintegration of powerful NGO's like that criminal Soros empire, for it's not tribes in whatever form that worry me in the splendid "post-state" era, it's these kind of stateless yet world-domineering NGO's and institutions.

      Anyhew, widespread secession in the US and the disintegration of that bloody union. Would that be helpful as far as world wars go?


    4. While I would agree that small organizations such as tribes or smaller states would be less capable of creating a world war or other totalitarian mischief, aren't we simply kicking the can down the road? Treating smaller groups as sovereign instead of individuals just means fewer "individuals" to be persuaded by an eloquent sociopath into some utopian scheme that puts himself and his cronies into a position of overlordship.

    5. Sag, I am with you.

      Woody, we don't get to 7 billion sovereigns (I prefer about 1.5 billion myself) until we get past the 200 or so of today.

      Decentralize and secede, regularly and often. This isn't kicking the can down the road in the sense you mean; it is walking the only peaceful road possible and available to us if we truly want to achieve something approaching a libertarian society.

    6. Woody, instead of focussing on freedom, we should focus on power instead, to give freedom a chance in the end. You see, while "we" take a NAP, so to speak, "they" ACT and seize power. Like they did with their long march trough the institutions.

      So what's to do? Develop strategies to fragment power (not only state power) to the smallest degree possible and act upon these strategies.

      For freedom-loving Americans this means secession. For European "nationalists" (as properly understood by Mises), this means preventing the future need for secession and exit the European "Union" a.s.a.p.


    7. My apologies. I find that I am guilty of the same sort of utopian thinking as others whom I've taken to task.

      I'm sitting here trying to figure out all the angles to prevent a libertarian system from collapsing. I forget that there is no such thing as a non-collapsing political system and everything is cyclical.

      The point is to design something that promotes libertarian ideals for a long time. Only God can design something that lasts forever.

  2. Schematically with the end of the Roman Empire a thousand warlords arose in Europe conquering little regions newly freed from Roman rule. In time certain regimes succeeded in concentrating and centralizing their authority to the point that boundaries and borders are recognizable to this day. The modern nation state is the remains and the result of endless territorial battles. The EU administered out of Brussels is the ultimate form of the state as well as a kind of final re-constitution of the old Roman Empire. The point is simply that while one is quite justified in denouncing state power for the bad idea it is, those who wield it and who are its beneficiaries aka the wily political class are surely perfectly well aware of the fact and are in no mood to simply voluntarily relinquish it. The libertarian strategy has got to be finesse rather than force. Freedom must be financed rather than argued for. That is the genius of the freesociety project: Negotiate with cash strapped states to purchase sovereignty. Borrow money at 5% knowing that the rate of economic growth of the free society so financed will be 10%. The next land of the free will be won by pure laissez faire capitalism and clever arbitrage rather than by might of political philosophy or might of arms.

  3. "we see in the State both authoritarian and libertarian realities. But, we have also seen which one wins in the long run."

    Neither, both are components of the same. A third component is socialism which will also never go away and is part and parcel of society.

    In my ongoing study of propertarianism I find this framing to be very compelling: feminine, brotherhood, paternal as reflected in socialism, liberalism/libertarianism, and conservatism. The power hierarchy is kept stable in each of these by gossip/praise(feminine), cooperation/rejection(liberalism/libertarianism) and power (conservatism).

    This framing sees society as the interplay of these three forces. These forces will be present forever thou one or the other may at times dominate. When one of them is dominates and suppresses the others, society suffers.

    The state is a reflection of society and the means by which one of these forces can enforce its domination.

    1. Interesting thought. Will require meditation. Thanks.

  4. > The argument of this book is that the single most decisive influence upon Western social organization has been the rise and development of the centralized territorial state.

    > "... But why? What influences brought this on, ..."

    That may be the wrong question. We can only ask this question because it happened. The question as such is backwards looking, trying to find an explanation for something which evolved as the best way to solve a problem. And that problem may no longer exist, and hence be invisible no matter what we try.

    An analogy:
    Why did this tree grow here? because a seed fell here? sure, but there were many seeds in many places, so why here? because the soil is better? maybe, but the tree has changed the soil so we can never know this for sure.

    The tree might grow here because animals ate the other seeds and this one was hidden beneath a pebble. It might grow here because it was planted by somebody. It might grow here because in the past there was a rock somewhat further away that casts its shadow just right.

    I find this as unsatisfactory as you probably will. But it is a possibility. And it sure is nice to speculate on and use it to reflect on our history.

    Oh, btw, I would be amiss to not mention the propertarian view: The state allows the creation of commons and that gives an evolutionary advantage to the individuals in a group. Commons contribute to the survival of the individual even without the individual consuming the it.

    1. Rien, I appreciate that you have introduced the propertarian view. From an earlier link, I appreciated that the concept of "property" need not be so strictly defined (mixing land with labor, physical property only, etc.).

      There is room to legally defend what is valued - in other words, punching a man in the nose for insulting my wife would be legal!

      It seems to me a beneficial attribute toward keeping order and peace. I can understand that other complications are introduced, but my initial thought is that these other complications are inherent in this being we call "human." Such complications will never be eliminated or avoided. We might as well incorporate these into our "law."

    2. > We might as well incorporate these into our "law."

      Yes, but when we do we should be aware that this can easily turn into "mission creep".

      > in other words, punching a man in the nose for insulting my wife would be legal!

      The Anonymous Conservative has an interesting take/question on this (and related 'violence'):

      (Short form: enforcing pacified behaviour could alter the male mental state making him 'unusable')

      And making the circle even wider, what about the impact of late births on male behaviour?:

    3. I think mixing the definition of property to include 'value,' rather than just traditional physical resources and the self, is dangerous as this massive expansion of possible legal infractions will likely increase conflict ad infinitum, and perhaps necessitate (in the minds of many people) a central governing authority.

      This also implies a proportionality problem, much like that of the bubble gum thief, though perhaps a less obvious one. Say that I write a bad review of your product, and since I have a well established reputation in the community, your business sees a large decline in revenue. Have I violated your property right in the value of your business? Are you justified in taking forceful action against my words? I believe that you wouldn't under any libertarian conception of law and ethics.

      Now if I lied in my review, this would be a different matter, but I still believe force would not be a proportional response. The matter could still be taken before a judge, however, and if I were to be found guilty of slander, depending on the reputation of the judge, my sterling reputation in the community would be tarnished by my deceit. Perhaps the judge would suggest that I could restore it by recompensing you the lost revenue due to my action and the community would abide. Regardless of my attempt to restore your business for my slanderous attack, the community may still hold a grudge against me, and my reputation may be tarnished forever to some degree. Social punishment can be very severe and unforgiving.

      Besides if a man insults your wife, there's no need to have a legal right to defend the value you ascribe to your wife against a verbal insult with violence. Just simply challenge the man to a fight in public. If he consents, punching him in the face, even multiple times, will be perfectly square with the law (consensual violence is in accord with the NAP) without adding value as a component or type of property.

      If he declines, well then he is a coward and his insult will backfire on himself: if he had just kept his mouth shut, then maybe people wouldn't know he is a coward, but since he didn't, they now do. Also, others now know that you will challenge others to fight if they insult your wife, and this will act as a deterrent against future insults. Honor and shame are given to the appropriate parties and no violence (or reformulation of the law) was necessary.

    4. Texas, you argument is consistent when you take the individualistic approach. But the point is that there may be non-material values that help group survival but may violate in (rare?) cases the individual 'rights'.

      (And propertarianism argues that it is those group values that have elevated the western civ's above the rest, and hence are worth preserving)

    5. ATL, I agree that there is risk in this. It also seems to me that there is risk in a strict physical property / person limit to aggression.

      I have started writing more but decided if I want to do this topic any justice, it would be a full post. I might, if I do something on the topic of propertarianism.

    6. Rien / BM,

      I'll be honest. I don't know much about propertarianism. I thought it was just a smear term for libertarians who hold property rights paramount (like me). The concept of owning value, however, has been addressed and refuted by Hans Hoppe and his argument was compelling for me. I'll try to track it down.

      If there are non-material values that are necessary for group survival yet violate individual's rights, then I believe it on them to justify this aggression and not on me to refute it. To me it just sounds like an apology for the state.

    7. ATL, I was offered the following. I might write something on it when my schedule slows down.

    8. I finally found a bit of time to track down Hoppe's treatment of the ownership of value. These quotes are from "The Economics and Ethics of Private Property."

      "According to the libertarian ethic, [ ] aggression is defined as an invasion of the physical integrity of other people’s property. There are popular attempts to define it as an invasion of the value or psychic integrity of other people’s property. Conservatism, for instance, aims at preserving a given distribution of wealth and values and attempts to bring those forces which could change the status quo under control by means of price controls, regulations, and behavioral controls. Clearly, in order to do so, property rights to the value of things must be assumed to be justifiable, and an invasion of values, mutatis mutandis, would have to be classified as unjustifiable aggression. Not only does conservatism use this idea of property and aggression; redistributive socialism does, too. Property rights to values must be assumed to be legitimate when redistributive socialism allows me, for instance, to demand compensation from people whose chances or opportunities negatively affect mine." - Hans Hoppe, p 325

      He goes on to explain why the ownership of value is at least impractical, and as an ethic, if you follow his reasoning (which I have not quoted here) further, 'argumentatively' impossible to justify.

      "First, while every person, at least in principle, can have full control over whether or not his actions cause the physical characteristics of something to change and hence can also have full control over whether or not those actions are justifiable, control over whether or not one’s actions affect the value of somebody else’s property does not rest with the acting person but rather with other people and their subjective evaluations." - Hans Hoppe, p 326

      "Evidently, one’s value, for example on the labor or marriage market, can be and indeed is affected by other people’s physical integrity or degree of physical integrity. Thus, if one wanted property values to be protected, one would have to allow
      physical aggression against people." - Hoppe, p 327

      He then gets into (but I'll spare you) the details of how the ownership of value calls into question the 'prior-later distinction' in regards to the ownership of physical property and why this invalidates this proposition as an ethical norm (to be enforced with violence).

    9. Texas, it seems to me that Curt Doolittle (invented propertarianism) has problems with the Rothbardian definition, but is much more agreeable with Hoppe's definition. Propertarianism defines property as "that which you are willing to defend". Which to me seems to converge with Hoppe's idea of value.

      The advantage of "willingness to defend" over nebulous concepts of value is imo that a willingness to defend is measurable where value is not. Even though the two are intrinsically linked.

    10. A man insults my wife. I punch him in the nose. I go to jail.

      This will take some thought.

    11. BM, yes in some societies, but not all.

      The definition of propertarian 'rights' handles this.

    12. Rien,

      "...has problems with the Rothbardian definition, but is much more agreeable with Hoppe's definition."

      Hoppe's definition of property is synonymous with Rothbard's: it has to be physical and scarce (exclusive, not infinite).

      The concept of value fits neither of the above criteria and nor does the willingness to defend something. Both are nebulous, non-scarce, all-encompassing and entirely subjective concepts.

      I don't see how 'a willingness to defend' is any more measurable than the concept of value itself. A willingness to defend something seems to be, to me, simply a measure of the value one ascribes to the thing to be defended.

      The question of politics is whether this defense is just or not. I don't believe the propertarian even pretends to be able to answer this. Therefore, as Harman himself admits, propertarianism is only a methodology of evaluating claims of property norms (i.e. supposedly empirically) based on some sort of presupposed utilitarianism.

  5. "The idea of individual rights was born with the growth of the monopoly State"

    I think this is true in the sense that people (well nobles anyway) were looking for a way to preserve the autonomy they had prior to the emergence of the monopoly state. They didn't talk about individual rights before the monopoly state, because this autonomy was just something they enjoyed due to the existence of intermediating and decentralized institutions of authority.

    I don't think the idea of individual rights is misguided, I simply think that, as a social mechanism, it is not sufficiently powerful to hold a monopoly authority to account. Individual rights under a monopoly authority are about as secure as my steak dinner under the nose of my dog when I leave the room.

    From this I believe it does not follow that the idea of individual rights is useless or counterproductive to liberty; I believe it is just asked to do too much. I think given that our old and good traditions have been mostly taken from us, the idea of abstract individual rights, at least in the libertarian formulation, is essential to undermining acceptance of the monopoly authority and recognizing the merit of reconnecting with old and good traditions.

    Libertarians need to make that last leap though. Recognizing individual rights is great and looking toward the dissolution of the state is even better, but it is a hopeless fantasy unless we recognize the importance of and lend our support to traditional authorities: the old and the good ones that is.

  6. This was a great post by the way. I'm always impressed by your level of output and especially your responsiveness to comments based on that output. You keep pushing the discussion forward so fast, I never have the time to dig through your old posts!

    I've thought about starting my own blog for a few years now, but I don't really know what I want to focus on or even if I should have a focus; my curiosity and interests fly all over the place (history, ethics, psychology, economics...), so I don't want to limit myself. I admire your blog model because you can talk about anything you want, though you've steered the conversation in a select few directions. I suppose I'll figure it out eventually, but at the moment I'm leaning towards a libertarian Texas independence blog.

    I found a couple of great lectures given recently at the
    Abbeville Institute ("The mission of the Abbeville Institute is to preserve and present what is true and valuable in the [American] Southern tradition."). If you can find the time, you should check them out. Both are fantastic.

    "What's Wrong with Ideology" by Don Livingston

    The lecture above cleared up some questions I had about the conservative distaste of 'ideology' (because it tends to cast doubt on all traditions until they are proven 'innocent' rather than prudentially affirming traditions until they are found 'guilty'). I found much to agree with in his analysis of rights (the "what" of society) and culture (the "how" of society) and why common culture is needed to define things like aggression and property.

    "Civil Society and the State: the Europeanization of the American Landscape" by Marco Bassani

    Bassani talks about how the state didn't really come into existence in the West until the Peace of Westphalia, how the state's one true goal is to centralize authority, and how federalism (true federalism) opposed this European-style centralization in the United States and Switzerland. It is an interesting discussion on sovereignty, statehood, and decentralization.

    1. ATL, thank you for the kind words. I will encourage you to write, whenever and whatever direction you choose.

      If you look at the first 100 posts at this blog (I don't suggest you do, just a mental exercise), I think very little in those would point in the direction of my writing of the last few years. Yes, generally economics, libertarian thought, etc.

      But this shouldn't be unexpected - one reason I write is to learn; another, to leverage the knowledge of people who provide feedback in order to learn some more.

      I also have kept myself focused - I have been asked to co-author some stuff or get published in a recognized journal. I tried the second once and decided it was a waste of time given my objectives.

      Anyway, do it for yourself and cultivate the kind of community you want. The rest takes care of itself.

      If I can find some time I will watch the videos. I have touched on the thought presented in the first video - keep the tradition unless proven harmful; I am rather familiar with Westphalia Treaty. In both cases, I could probably stand to gain further depth.

    2. I agree with BM, just start writing. I have a blog too, and don't even check the 'readers' stats. And given that there is no reaction possible either (except for email) you could ask: why bother?

      Well, I write for myself. Writing disciplines the thought. However, the writing should be accessible to others, otherwise the discipline disappears

    3. Yes ATL,

      A TEXit-blog would be great! Anything that contributes to the fragmentation of the US would be a boon to liberty.


    4. Sagunto,

      Yes we need an 'American Miracle' like the one Ralph Raico spoke of in Europe that explained the material and political success of the Western world.

      "Although geographical factors played a role, the key to western development is to be found in the fact that, while Europe constituted a single civilization — Latin Christendom — it was at the same time radically decentralized. In contrast to other cultures — especially China, India, and the Islamic world — Europe comprised a system of divided and, hence, competing powers and jurisdictions."

      The United States of America need to be thought of in the plural again, rather than the singular, and we Americans need to be reminded that a union is only 'good' insofar as it is voluntary. I think this should mean individual consent, but I'm willing to accept state level (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, etc.) consent as a realistic step toward liberty in my lifetime.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. ".....Just simply challenge the man to a fight in public. If he consents, punching him in the face, even multiple times, will be perfectly square with the law (consensual violence is in accord with the NAP) without adding value as a component or type of property....".

    NO NO NO :)

    The very essence of the civilized society, the very meaning of 'Justice' in the Carolingian Medieval world was that private disputes would be brought to a public setting to be resolved peaceably by learned, noble, and wise figures. In this way the physical combat of the joust was replaced by the reasoned arbitration of the mind. The very essence of the libertarian society must be keep the peace, to prevent and mitigate physical combat, NOT at all welcome it back and promote it.

    1. Victor, sometimes a punch in the nose is the best way to keep the peace. Medieval disputes were often resolved via feud. Between the parties, in this way not a larger war.

    2. Victor,

      This would be a consensual solution. People, especially men, have violent tendencies. It is not realistic to think we can do away with violence once and for all. The best we can do is attach an ethical code of consent-based justice to it.

      The libertarian philosophy is not a pacifistic one; it is one which deals exclusively with the concept of when the use of violence is justified.

  8. If you are wondering what ever happened to community, think about the right of contract, especially real estate contracts. Nisbet understood this relationship better than most contemporary economists or sociologists. He praised kinship and community, but he recognized that freedom of contract has eroded both factors almost to invisibility.

    Localism was a major social factor in the Middle Ages because of the high cost of moving and the absence of contracts for land. Localism has been undermined here because of the absence of these two restrictive factors.

    Communities before capitalism meant a lot less privacy and a lot more peer pressure. Communities meant the threat of ostracism. We speak of residents of totalitarian societies voting with their feet.

    In America, they voted with their wagons, on trains, in Model T’s, and with Greyhound Bus tickets.

    The automobile ended community. Nobody ever said it better than Will Rogers in the depths of the Great Depression: “This is the first nation in history that has gone to the poorhouse in an automobile.”

    Community grows out of covenants, and covenants grow out of confessions. We are a nation of rival confessions.

    Libertarianism favors this development, but there is a price to pay: reduced loyalty to any community strong enough to defend against the incursion of the ersatz community of the messianic state.

    This was Nisbet’s message in The Quest for Community in 1953. In a way, Oxford University Press was not completely wrong when it changed the title to Community and Power in 1965, just in time for the breakdown of any semblance of community on campus. (Oxford switched back to the old title a few years later.)

    Nisbet’s point was this: when communities erode, political power replaces them.

    What will happen when national political power breaks down? This is a great unanswered question.

    When the state’s guaranteed retirement programs and its guaranteed old age health programs sink in a wave of red ink over the next generation, what will replace the bankrupt behemoths that made the promises and will forfeit legitimacy?


    1. max, let's hope that this isn't an "either / or" question, because then our choices are nothing more than continued advance toward totalitarian and even world government or return to a world without air conditioning.

      Of course, the first will eventually lead to the second. I guess then the cockroaches will reign supreme once again (or your version of the end times comes first, whichever you choose to believe).

  9. Very interesting ideas about how the importance of individual rights grow as a function of how absolute the power of a central state. It poses a whole different problem that most people don't think about. That problem is very well summarized in your 2 competing ideas of libertarianism below.

    "I think one’s view on this depends on one’s belief in the strength of the individual to stand against power; the “Reformation” libertarians (for lack of a better term) believe that man can stand free absent any other intermediating institutions – in fact, only in the absence of any intermediating institutions can an individual be considered free.

    The “Catholic” (medieval) libertarians believe that it is in the diffusion of power into several competing and overlapping governance institutions where one’s freedom will be best preserved."

    I agree with your assessment, but then more problems arise in my head because I think both sides of libertarianism are right. and wrong. There are freedoms we enjoy today because we don't live under the obligation of clan or tribe. But of course a centralized state has more power to have more control of your life. I don't know what the perfect end goal should be for the greatest level of freedom, but I think you and others in the comments hint at the next steps to be more free than yesterday.

    So my question is what is that practical, tangible next step? I am not even talking about secession, which I think is a very important step but maybe a few steps down that road. How do we build and strengthen mediating authorities in our culture today? And what should those mediating authorities be?

    1. Rhesa

      "I don't know what the perfect end goal should be for the greatest level of freedom"

      You've answered your own question. We cannot decide this for others, only ourselves. This is why I believe the correct libertarian end goal is not a universal libertarian territory but a decentralized Hoppean network of private (voluntary) law societies bound together by third party dispute and mutual defense agreements. Each of these will have more or less freedom depending on consumer preference and a libertarian law will develop between members of different associations.

      "So my question is what is that practical, tangible next step?"

      My idea is to form or join associations and clubs that demand a good code of ethics (for the promotion of good culture) and encourage members to settle disputes within the club as a sort of parallel law society. As the centralized aggressive authority recedes in importance overtime, due to its bureaucratic incompetence and corruption juxtaposed with the private efficiency and integrity of the clubs, these clubs and associations will become more and more authoritative until the point where we reach full fledged private law societies. Throw in a dash or two of political secession to lubricate the above process.

      The clubs could be religious in nature, like the Catholic "Knights of Columbus," or they could be based on culture more generally, like a club for Texas Southern gentlemen who prefer independence to union with the other states, and who prefer Jeffersonian (decentralist) principles to Lincolnian (centralist) principles.

      Just don't join any 'clubs' that have an unnatural fascination with comets.

    2. Good thoughts all around. I also think one of the most important keys is to have mutual defense agreements. No sense in breaking up into smaller entities that are then more vulnerable to military take over.

    3. ATL your points are very good. I will add: raise healthy, conscious children. Don't add to the problem.

  10. Better than the nose punch? From Wikipedia: "Dueling was a common practice in the U.S. South from the seventeenth century until the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Although the dueling largely disappeared in the early nineteenth century in the North, it remained a common practice in the South (as well as the West) until the battlefield experience of the American Civil War changed public opinion and resulted in an irreversible decline for dueling.[1] The markets and governance of the South were not as institutionalized during the nineteenth century compared to the North. Thus, duels presented what seemed like a quicker way of settling disputes outside of the courts. Although many duels were fought to settle disputes over tangible items such as land, unpaid debts, money, or women, more were over intangible ones." Peggy in Oregon

  11. FWIW, you might find this interesting (BM and others):

    A short snippet from the beginning:

    > Libertarian freedoms are not incompatible with a strong commitment to in-group white identity politics. On the contrary, Europeans can preserve their attachment to individual liberties only by living inside nations with a strong sense of collective ancestry in opposition to mass immigration.

    This is hard to understand because individualism by its nature is a form of separation or differentiation of the self from the surrounding environment, from that which is external, the I from the not-I. It is hard because the individualism of the West is always contrasted to the collectivism of the Rest.

    Some say the "idea that the individual is sovereign" is a "miracle". This is inaccurate wording. Europeans became individuals through a long drawn out effort, not in one fell swoop or in one historical period. The detachment of the self from the ensemble of the surrounding world, including one's own body, manifested itself in different degrees by different sides of the human personality in multiple cultural ways. <

    Btw: I liked reading the above with this music in the background :-)