Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Missing Link



With this post, I will conclude my examination of Nisbet’s book.  After a brief review of the concluding chapters, I will come to the subject hinted at in the title of this post.

The Problem of Liberalism

Nisbet offers that at the same time we prize the gifts (in his view) of liberalism, including…

…equalitarian democracy, moral neutrality, intellectual liberation, secular progress, rationalism, and all the liberating impersonalities of modern industrial and political society.

Admittedly, I do not value all of these as I believe the list corresponds more to today’s liberalism and not classical liberalism.  And in this conflation, we find a bit of a missed connection in Nisbet’s work.

On the other we continue to venerate tradition, secure social status, the corporate hierarchies of kinship, religion and community, and close involvement in clear moral contexts.

He offers that present liberal thought is in crisis, as there is “correspondence between the basic liberal values and the prejudgments and social contexts upon which the historical success of liberalism has been predicated.”

The Contexts of Individuality

No fault is to be found with the declared purposes of individualism.

There is a valid ethical aspect of individualism, yet it loses its mooring when divorced from social organization. 

These qualities that, in their entirety, composed the eighteenth-century liberal image of man were qualities actually inhering to a large extent in a set of institutions and groups, all of which were aspects of human tradition.

Caught up in Newtonian mechanics, these group qualities were atomized – impulses and reason deemed to be innate in man.  As long as the group qualities retained some amount of social functionality, individualism could survive – and in fact did both survive and thrive.  But atomization was eventually to do its work to the remnants of these qualities.

Nisbet comments on the book by Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies:  Popper sees Athens of the 5th century B.C. and the Renaissance in Western Europe as ages of “individualism.”

These are ages, he argues, recently released from the dead hand of tradition, membership, and tribalism.

Consider the following:

[George] Soros used his fortune to create the Open Society Foundations—a network of foundations, partners, and projects in more than 100 countries. Their name and work reflect the influence on Soros’s thinking of the philosophy of Karl Popper, which Soros first encountered at the London School of Economics. In his book Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper argues that no philosophy or ideology is the final arbiter of truth, and that societies can only flourish when they allow for democratic governance, freedom of expression, and respect for individual rights—an approach at the core of the Open Society Foundations’ work.
                                                                                                                                             
Enough said about that.

The Contexts of Democracy

Definitions of democracy are as varied as the interests of persons and generations. …but it is, fundamentally, a theory and structure of political power.

This, as opposed to liberalism which historically was to mean immunity from power.  Lincoln’s definition of democracy: government of, by, and for the people “cannot be improved upon.”  The problem is…what does one mean by “people”?

Is it a numerical aggregate of individuals (i.e. Soros “Open Society”), or is it something indistinguishable from a culture – inseparable from family, church, professions and traditions?  Certainly, Lincoln’s war offered a horrendous example of the former; a glimpse of the difference in these two views can be seen in the run-up to and aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election.

The liberal values of autonomy and freedom of personal choice are indispensable to a genuinely free society, but we shall achieve and maintain these only by vesting them in the conditions in which liberal democracy will thrive – diversity of culture, plurality of association, and division of authority.

I hope by now that the context of Nisbet’s work makes clear what he means by these last few words.

The Missing Link

There is something notably missing from Nisbet’s analysis, and this is captured in one of three “Critical Reviews” published at the end of the book; in this case a piece entitled The Enduring Achievement and Unfinished Work of Robert Nisbet, by Jeanne Heffernan Schindler.  I will focus on the “unfinished” part.

At the same time, the prescriptive dimension of Nisbet’s work remains incomplete, needing a more adequate theory of the state, human freedom, and the normative status of social institutions.  In this regard, the social ontology and political vision of Catholic social thought offers the resources necessary to correct and complete Nisbet’s already impressive achievement.

There you have it in a nutshell, and regular readers here will need no further comment to understand this meaning – whether in agreement or not.  Schindler points directly to the weakness – not specifically of “individualism” and modern liberalism, as Nisbet does, but a weakness with roots that are to be found much in an earlier time:

Without the sturdy roots of an inherited tradition, the lone thinker proved himself a weak reed, easily swayed by the current of popular opinion.

A transcendent tradition, one not created anew with every newly created rationalization….or excuse. 

The prescriptive elements in his work are also compelling, but they require fuller development and a more satisfying foundation.  To achieve social pluralism requires moving beyond historical description and sociological analysis to social ontology – that is, to philosophical and theological anthropology.

In the West, this is to be found in the tradition of medieval Europe, the combination and blending of Germanic tradition and the Catholic Church.

In what may provide (for me) a glimpse into a path of developing – within libertarian bounds – a proper and legal defense of culture and tradition.  From the Second Vatican Council and Gaudium et Spes:

Man’s social nature makes it evident that the progress of the human person and the advance of society itself hinge on one another….Since this social life is not something added on to man….(emphasis added)

Conclusion

If this “social life” is inherent in man, might a forced fracturing of this social life not be considered “aggression”?

Yes, I know.  It isn’t physical person or physical property.  But is that really so?  If it is inherent in man, how is this not physical?

31 comments:

  1. So, is an improvement on your and McMaken’s theory: Libertarianism in theory is (Catholic-based) Subsidiarity in practice? As I asked last time, how do we get there? To me, the first start would be the Knights of Columbus stop pledging allegiance to the flag before meetings.

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    1. Eric, it may be an improvement but it is a far more vague vision. I can see a path to decentralization in the West, maybe because we are living it.

      Larger than Knights of Columbus, all churches with flags, supporting the military, defending Israel, etc. If church leaders don't lead, we may have decentralization by default, but there will be no foundation for maintaining liberty.

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    2. That’s definitely my concern.

      Regarding decentralization, community, democracy, and intermediate institutions, this may help explain the depth of the problem “on the ground”.

      Local school board wants to shut “neighborhood” school (and instead of not replacing building expensive one five miles away in richer, growing part of town). Church next door hosted meeting, but did not want to address democratic aspects. Certainly no one wanted to talk about government running schools. Many people are confused on powers between school system and the municipality. The superintendent that recommended decision did ask “Please define community” when questioned about the local neighborhood losing school.

      Is it the school, the church, the (covenant) neighborhood, family, the taxation districts? What it probably is not is a common culture (except statism—in favor of except when “my school” is taken) or intermediate organizations ...

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    3. Yes, you raise several issues in this one small tidbit:

      1) Church unable to address State
      2) We don't even know what "community" means anymore (I suspect varying in different parts of the country).
      3) Homeschooling as a legal escape and foundation

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    4. My “fix” is to run for School Board. Even though my own kids are in a half-school/homeschool program. I won’t be running as a Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalist either, if that tells you anything.

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  2. I like the Socratic bent of this write up, thank you.

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    1. More peaceful for me if I just ask questions....

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    2. All of us really...I prefer Socratic discussion for that reason and others. I use it heavily in my life.

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    3. Sure, it's just the answers that get people worked into a lather....

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    4. I wanted the weekend to digest some things and before I get into a brief summary as I understand things currently, possibly setting up some Socratic furtherance later(even if some people misperceive it as being obtuse). I also want to apologize in advance if anything I post has already been covered- as you note, I've been out of the loop for several months due to more pressing concerns and though I've been reading your posts I haven't added anything for that reason and others. (and I'm guilty of not giving them the proper thought time required)

      Here's the #1 reason I think the "answers" that you argued for have people in a "lather":


      You have argued that covenant communities will not work due to the nature/culture of libertarian society in general, referring back to the cultural soil developed under the "barbarian"(German/Goth) tribes as the encroached back upon the fiscally failing/overextended Roman empire and lasted roughly 1000 years in a decentralized state. You also attribute the rise of individuality in both the Reformation and Enlightenment as contributors to the destruction of this decentralized governance as time went on.

      The reason that people are in a "lather"(IMO) regarding this is that your conclusion strikes against several key components for liberty minded people that they have accepted, maybe relatively unquestioningly:

      ***The baseline validity of voluntary contracts as a workable concept, both them being voluntary and a contract itself as being important, almost maybe to the degree of them being a bedrock foundation to liberty.***

      To further summarize, you have argued against the notion of proportionality, including from a cultural perspective and you have also argued that the movement of the "barbarian" tribes had an element of voluntaryism in that the Roman empire was failing and it's border people starving so they welcomed the Barbarian tribes(some of which were fleeing Attila the Hun) in place of the Romans. (I'm not saying I agree with these descriptions, I'm just trying to summarize them)

      You have also asked a good question in a Socratic manner, in essence stating "When has a contract every helped those not in power but subject to it?"(paraphrasing)

      Let me stop here, if I'm wrong in any of my summaries up to this point, please correct me.

      I'm asking myself "Why are people upset?" and "Do I understand the argument properly?"

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    5. My overall view is that this Germanic medieval society offered a law that came as close to libertarian law as any evidenced on earth. From this, the rest flows.

      “…covenant communities will not work due to the nature/culture of libertarian society in general, referring back to the cultural soil developed under the "barbarian" (German/Goth) tribes…”

      I argue that what came closest to such communities had certain characteristics, and these characteristics cannot be ignored if one wants to discuss the possibility of contractual communities. A fundamental characteristic was what was meant by “honor” in Germanic society; a second was the Church. In this – certainly the second – many libertarians get worked up in a lather.

      “You also attribute the rise of individuality in both the Reformation and Enlightenment as contributors to the destruction of this decentralized governance as time went on.”

      The individuality as a means to enhance the State I have come to more recently, I think – at least in putting it in these terms. I long ago came to see that destroying common culture was only a benefit to the State (hence my vitriol toward left-libertarians).

      Additionally, I looked to the ideas of the Enlightenment – and even the Renaissance – that man’s reason was sufficient, that culture and tradition (the accumulated “reason” of dozens of generations of men) were secondary or even irrelevant, as a major contributor to the destruction of liberty.

      “To further summarize, you have argued against the notion of proportionality, including from a cultural perspective….”

      I don’t think so. “Proportionality” is a subjective concept; punishment is an objective event. For a libertarian to say “proportionality” without recognizing that there must be a common cultural understanding and agreement of “X is proportional punishment for Y” is naïve…at best.

      Which comes back to a common culture being necessary to develop and maintain liberty, because if your culture says “X” is proportional and my culture says “Z” is proportional and these two are significantly different, the punishment will not be seen as just and further conflict is assured. This, as you know, was the point that broke it off for me with a libertarian who advocates that the property owner has sole discretion for determining punishment.

      So I am all for proportionality, within this context.

      “…the Roman Empire was failing and it's border people starving so they welcomed the Barbarian tribes…”

      This is factually correct. What this fact has to do with my views on the cultural context of a libertarian society, I am not sure.

      “I'm asking myself "Why are people upset?"”

      Of course, you will answer this question for yourself. I will offer some further color on this:

      When a libertarian says “anything peaceful” and I say “not if liberty is your objective,” and I demonstrate this through the very libertarian law of the medieval period (or the value of common culture), libertarians get upset. When I describe that untested test-tube libertarians schemes are formed from the same cloth (man’s reason, a theory that opens the door to the atomized individual) as the schemes of the last century that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions, libertarians get upset.

      Libertarian law required the Church; libertarian law was not universal; this law was not some newfangled political or social theory, grounded in nothing but the “rational” intellect. Pointing such things out upsets many libertarians.

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    6. BM,

      I certainly agree that cultural norms are required to define proportional punishment, (as well as the boundaries of property and what constitutes aggression), but I can't help but think that some punishments are just objectively not proportional by any stretch of the imagination, like cutting off a hand for minor theft.

      "libertarian law was not universal"

      But it can be. Like the Church, its tenets are universalizable. Both the Catholic Church and libertarianism offer a conception of a natural law discernible by reason which can be applicable to all based on our shared human condition. The very word Catholic, as I'm sure you know, comes from a Greek word meaning universal.

      Having said that, universalism, like individualism and collectivism, can be used to degrade culture, rather than uplift it, and to subvert good laws, rather than uphold them. I submit that good universalism is one which must be voluntarily adopted and which may be defended against invasion, corruption, and annihilation. I think both Catholicism and properly understood libertarianism are consistent with this.

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    7. "A fundamental characteristic was what was meant by “honor” in Germanic society; a second was the Church. In this – certainly the second – many libertarians get worked up in a lather."

      Yes, I think it may be because the Church, especially during that time frame, was also a source of corruption and dare I say force/involuntary relationships. (not to speak of those that simply dislike religion, which is a seperate issue)

      I tend to agree with your points though about the necessity of a moral code and the fact that Church was a counterbalance to state power.(wouldn't it be nice if that was the case today?)

      "The individuality as a means to enhance the State I have come to more recently"

      I think you have moved in a good direction in that regard.

      "So I am all for proportionality, within this context."

      Excellent, thank you for the clarification.

      "This is factually correct. What this fact has to do with my views on the cultural context of a libertarian society, I am not sure."

      There is some countervailing history I've read that suggests there were indeed Gothic war parties run by cheiftans with a reward system based on plunder- how it applies in the context of libertarian society has to do with my questions about it's beginnings/formation. (harken back to our brief exchange on the difference between strongman, elected or not)

      I ask in the interest of exploring possible paths to liberty. (though for now, we've relegated ourselves to examining the past for answers/paths)

      "When a libertarian says “anything peaceful” and I say “not if liberty is your objective,”"

      And that dovetails nicely with my socratic dialogue on the "begining" of libertarian cultural soil.

      I question if this notion of "anything peaceful" is a requirement, as you seem to,but I think all of us would prefer a peaceful solution. But, the question is, is it necessary? (in the context of the formation of Gothic decentralization- I do question the history there, though you resolutely state it as fact, there appears to be alternative historical versions...I can't debate this at this moment because I'm not knowledgeable enough in that area and I'm letting it go at this moment.)-cont.

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    8. cont.

      I remember a while back when I wrote a piece about Sheldon Richman, who arguing for his own version of culturally impacted libertarianism, stated "while one can imagine a racist society in which no force is used. But although a society of racist pacifists is not a logical impossibility, it strikes me as highly unlikely", my response was in essence one of debunking his theory regarding racism but also pointing out that libertarians are not "pacifists", but instead don't INITIATE aggression, which is tremendously different.

      The fact that commies use the state to appropriate our money is in itself a NAP violation and seems to easily justify physical aggression in return when it makes sense to do so.(like when you can "win", which is an actual part of Aquinas's Just War theory)

      "Libertarian law required the Church; libertarian law was not universal; this law was not some newfangled political or social theory, grounded in nothing but the “rational” intellect. Pointing such things out upsets many libertarians."

      My guess is that because the Church itself was mired in corruption and somewhat absolutist in some ways during the time period in question, ostensibly kicking off the reformation and the dreaded Lutheran individuality(*smile*), you get those pushing for decentralization scratching their head.

      For those that let's say, make a more "emotional" response, meaning they are upset- I would guess you'd have atheists in particular in that camp, and though I'm agnostic myself, I've found many atheists to be emotionally charged, usually there's some personal reasons behind what is an intense dislike for all these "Church" or religious in general. They also view themselves as "ultimately rational".

      No doubt, the libertarian movement is populated with these people- and your discourse and the according conclusions you've made as a result, would naturally be upsetting to many of them.

      The questions that are starting to form in my mind include:

      1. Can libertarian society form under a moral code outside of Christendom?( I think you argue in essence, "no")
      2. Is the only path to a cultural soil ripe for libertarian outcomes undertaken by "strongmen" (non-voluntary means), or only by voluntary means?(is it either/or?)
      3. Do voluntary contracts(not "social" contracts!) in general prohibit the cultural application of libertarian outcomes?
      4. Is rationality alone a detractor from libertarian outcomes, or was it man's abandonment from morality and replacement of his "rationalized" version(utilitarianism?) that destroyed decentralized middle age German culture that leaned libertarian?
      5. Is there room for both rationalization and a moral code that might not be "rationally" based(Christian, etc.) in determining the proper cultural soil for libertarian outcomes?

      I'm not decided on any of the above fully. But I wanted to both make sure I understand your arguments fully(I think I do now, thank you!) and ask the appropriate questions in a Socratic manner.(even though I'm not ready to answer them myself at this time.)

      6. One more right before I post:

      Did the failure of the Roman Empire help bring about the Germanic cultural decentralization that yielded libertarian outcomes?

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    9. “…but I can't help but think that some punishments are just objectively not proportional by any stretch of the imagination, like cutting off a hand for minor theft.”

      Or abortion for the trespass committed by an unborn child, one who is certainly innocent of placing himself in a position of “trespass.” But wait! Most libertarians believe this is just punishment – “proportional.”

      “But it can be. Like the Church, its tenets are universalizable.”

      I have written something that will be posted tomorrow that develops more this idea of universal libertarianism. Maybe we can discuss further then.

      “…offer a conception of a natural law…”

      I started reading Gerard Casey’s 900 page volume, and skipped ahead to the Middle Ages. He offers his background of the term “natural law.” Libertarian heads will spin, assuming what I understand him to say holds as I finish reading, thinking about, then writing on this section.

      “…I think it may be because the Church, especially during that time frame, was also a source of corruption and dare I say force/involuntary relationships.”

      I would have to think more on the “force/involuntary relationships” part, however as to corruption, this is true enough. But if this is why many libertarians get in a lather about the Church, then there is not – and will never be – an institution made up of humans that will satisfy libertarians. Wait a minute, I just stumbled onto something!

      As Jordan Peterson offers, all hierarchies are corrupt, but that’s not all that they are. The best of these make life – and liberty – possible.

      So…I don’t think the corruption is it at all. I think it is for the “good” in the Church that many libertarians get upset by it. I also think it is because many libertarians don’t see a need for any ethic beyond the NAP…especially one that might get in the way of their “liberty.”

      “…how it applies in the context of libertarian society has to do with my questions about its beginnings/formation….I ask in the interest of exploring possible paths to liberty.”

      What is known as the alt-right – specifically for those who have some sympathy to the NAP – seems to lean toward this “solution.” I don’t, for two reasons: first, revolution leads to unknown and unknowable ends; that it “worked” toward producing libertarian law in medieval Europe makes the fruits of these strongmen unique in history, it seems to me.

      Second, there are ethical boundaries I will not cross, even if the consequence to me in this life is something not good; I am playing a bigger game…and sure would like to win!

      “I question if this notion of "anything peaceful" is a requirement, as you seem to, but I think all of us would prefer a peaceful solution.”

      I think I wasn’t clear in my meaning. There are libertarians today who say that the NAP allows “anything peaceful.” Technically that rings true. But if liberty is the objective, “anything peaceful” hasn’t demonstrated itself as being a successful path. What I mean is…in the medieval age, there were bounds on allowable acts – the bounds being violations of the NAP, yet seemed to serve the larger interest of liberty.

      I will touch on one of your questions:

      “Can libertarian society form under a moral code outside of Christendom? (I think you argue in essence, "no")”

      My answer is “no evidence,” and given the entirety of recorded history, this is a pretty strong statement. Certainly the best possible experiment began in 1776; it failed by 1789, or – if one were generous – 1861. Talk about corrupt! Makes the medieval Church seem downright “Christian,” doesn’t it?

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    10. "Wait a minute, I just stumbled onto something!"

      Yes, yes you did. There's a catch however, we promote decentralization- which ostensibly includes the notion of "secession" in the hopes for libertarian outcomes. On that basis, I've said that if people want to get together and form a voluntary community of communists...let them do it, as long as they don't force it on me, even though most of us know how it will end.

      The same should be applied to those seeking libertine cultural communities with the quid pro quo of leaving alone those communities that want nothing to do with such things.

      "As Jordan Peterson offers, all hierarchies are corrupt, but that’s not all that they are. The best of these make life – and liberty – possible."

      Yes, I've heard him say that and I like most of what Peterson has to say. The interesting thing about Peterson himself: he refuses to be categorized as a Christian as he has said it would "put him in a box" if I remember correctly.(for context) Is he rejecting said hierarchy? (it's clear he has appreciation for it)

      "So…I don’t think the corruption is it at all. "

      It's a minor point of disagreement between us, but only in that I feel a significant number of libertarians see the ability to secede from corrupt organizations as a staple of liberty, Church or no.

      Granted, I do believe there are some libertarians that would defend "sex on the lawn" in a neighborhood community, based on property rights, even if that neighborhood was culturally conservative with kids playing about.(sadly)

      To me it's the same as punching someone in the nose who said horrific things to your wife. In other words, certain behaviors CAN be construed as a NAP violation even if they aren't physical aggression when culture is accounted for. It's why I've been on board with your exploration on culture in that regards. It's actually painfully obvious to me now, when before I was mired in trying to make everything objectively fit the NAP. (I kind of feel stupid now truthfully, or as the favorite slur of the alt-righter's to libertarians, "autistic")

      "Second, there are ethical boundaries I will not cross, even if the consequence to me in this life is something not good; I am playing a bigger game…and sure would like to win!"

      This is good that you state this clearly, as I was a getting a vibe(mistakenly) that you might be justifying aggression to some extent.

      I think the frustration for many of us is that the alt-right is ready to go to war, and they've been courting libertarians to join them for a variety of reasons and seem to have both respect and disdain for libertarians as a result.

      The simple fact is(IMO), that as you state, any such outcome is unknowable, further if you're a Christian I'm fairly certain that to war at this point over the state of the US may not really be justified by the doctrine of the "Just War" theory, and lastly, there is always a chance that the collapse of the empire will lead to more liberty without ever having to fire a shot. Saving both lives and money.(but to your point, it's unknowable at this time)

      The Founders are pretty routinely held up for their bravery in fighting off England, but they had a lot of help(Hessians, the French, etc.) and a whole sea between them. I suspect they felt they had a good chance of winning their war. I can't say with any degree of confidence that any movement populated by Alt-Righter's and libertarians could ever overcome the raw military might of the United States, or it's vassal states police enforcement agencies, let alone the populace of "patriotic" Repubs and Democrats that want to see the empire last forever. It's a complete non-starter strategically and by that point alone it doesn't fit the "Just War" theory.

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    11. @Nick: " I was a getting a vibe(mistakenly) that you might be justifying aggression to some extent"

      I am speaking for myself here, but I am toying with the idea that "functional aggression" might be acceptable.

      Functional in the sense that the aggression is initiated because of the expected utility to society. I.e. this is no aggression of the type "shoot somebody for stealing an apple" or "I felt like it". Ie. this type of aggression is not initiated by a person but by society at large in defence of or to further development of that society.

      I fully realize all (well, many at least) the possible pitfalls, and I will not wax on for page after page of how this should be implemented. For the moment I am just thinking about this.

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    12. BM: "all hierarchies are corrupt, but that’s not all that they are. The best of these make life – and liberty – possible."

      It does depend on how you define corrupt. To me (us?) corruption has a nasty taste to it. I (we?) want equality before the law and a merit based society.

      But there are many cultures (hierarchical societies) where people would take offense when you did not use your position in the hierarchy to further the interest of your family.

      As you correctly sensed, the way the hierarchy is formed is an integral part of society and societies do compete with one another. Western society has outcompeted all the rest (and benefitted all the rest!), and one of the questions is "why?" (the other question is: "how can we maintain this?")

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    13. "I started reading Gerard Casey’s 900 page volume, and skipped ahead to the Middle Ages... as I finish reading, thinking about, then writing on this section." - BM

      You got the book! I'm jealous. Judging by your comment, it sounds like Casey has the correct interpretation of freedom in the Middle Ages. That's fantastic! I can't wait to read your thoughts on it.

      "further if you're a Christian I'm fairly certain that to war at this point over the state of the US may not really be justified by the doctrine of the "Just War" theory" - Nick

      Here's what the Catholic Church has to say about the conditions for just war:

      "Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution." - CCC 2243

      My take? 1.) Yes, 2.) No, 3.) Who knows? But it seems like any time a revolution was successful in a culture obsessed with "equality" the results were bad, and we live in a culture fixated on equality, 4.) Certainly not, and 5.) Peaceful secession is a much better solution.

      I would agree with you and say no; it is not justified, nor is it smart. We'd just end up provoking a response from the state that would end or ruin the lives of many good people, including our own. On the spectrum of bravery to stupidity, I'd say an attempted armed revolution would lean heavily stupid.

      The Catechism, however, does give unambiguous justification for peacefully disobeying the state:

      "The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." "We must obey God rather than men":" - CCC 2242

      I've been reading the Catechism a lot lately, and I'm seriously impressed just how libertarian it really is, or rather just how 'Catholic' libertarianism really is (I suspect the latter is more appropriate). There are directives to obey the authorities (like Romans 12) and to pay them their dues, true, but there are also statements about when an authority is just, and most if not all authorities today fail to meet the requirements.

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    14. Nick

      “Is he rejecting said hierarchy?”

      I think he is rejecting the idea that what he sees as “Christianity” cannot be so easily captured.

      “…I feel a significant number of libertarians see the ability to secede from corrupt organizations as a staple of liberty, Church or no.”

      Agree. But my earlier point: every institution has characteristics that could be labeled “corrupt.” What I (sarcastically) stumbled upon: there is a strain of left-libs that are after destroying all hierarchies – just like the communists. Easy to do if what you are looking for is your definition of corruption (and by using “you,” I don’t mean you, Nick; just easy writing convention).

      “It's actually painfully obvious to me now, when before I was mired in trying to make everything objectively fit the NAP.”

      While maybe not as strong a term as “autistic,” I was once called dogmatic – and felt really good about this. I have travelled pretty far in the several years of this blog.

      “This is good that you state this clearly, as I was a getting a vibe (mistakenly) that you might be justifying aggression to some extent.”

      I am OK with punching someone who insults your wife.

      As to the Alt-right and libertarians, Hoppe gave a great speech on this topic, including (paraphrased): libertarians have a political theory with no plan of action, the Alt-Right has a plan of action with no political theory.

      The Alt-right works for libertarians who view decentralization as the way libertarianism can be put into practice. Universalist libertarians view the Alt-right (and libertarians who have anything not negative to say about them) as fascists.

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    15. "when before I was mired in trying to make everything objectively fit the NAP." - Nick

      Don't feel bad Nick. I think every libertarian goes through this phase, and some never leave it. I believe it is because our minds, having finally escaped the disease of the central planning mentality, don't yet grasp how things can be decided without a monopoly decision maker, and so we feel the need to 'objectify' everything, to necessarily settle all disputes theoretically beforehand, or else prove to ourselves that libertarianism doesn't work. But this all or nothing mindset I think is just remnant of the statist disease still in our brain forcing us to subject libertarianism to the crucible of perfection, or else surrender to the idea of the State.

      I broke out of this mindset when I started to put more faith in people just working out mutually beneficial and pragmatic solutions along lines defined by a healthy mix of both principle and culture (like covenant communities and private law societies), regardless of whether they were 'objectively correct' or perfectly libertarian.

      Also a Christian humility should inform us that no system or 'ism' is perfect, since it will necessarily be organized and operated by man, a fallen creature capable of both good and evil. So no system is perfect, but a comparative political analysis shows that some are unquestionably (perhaps objectively?) better than others, and I've yet to hear a better solution to the problem of the just use of violence in society than that prescribed by the libertarian doctrine.

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    16. "There are directives to obey the authorities (like Romans 12) and to pay them their dues..."

      Casey does a good job of deconstructing this as well. To summarize: 1) the translation isn't very good, and 2) to take this passage as the last word given the many other statements regarding ignoring or disobeying worldly power is not reasonable.

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    17. ATL, this is really a wonderful statement.

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    18. Thanks Bionic! It was your site and your community that helped me a lot in this regard, so really you are just praising yourself. Jeez, have a little humility man.

      Bastiat, Rothbard, Hoppe, Deist, and Rockwell already had me down the path toward the recognition of the importance of traditional culture in the fight for liberty, but in all seriousness, thank you for your very important contribution to the maturity of my understanding of liberty.

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    19. Thanks, ATL. I have told the story before, so maybe you already know this: it was when I was challenged with giving Hoppe the same treatment that I was giving to left-libertarians when I really started heavily down this trail.

      Nick, how on earth did your eleven words result in such a long and complex discussion?

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  3. "There is a valid ethical aspect of individualism, yet it loses its mooring when divorced from social organization." - BM

    Selections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    "The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation." - CCC 1879

    and:

    "Each community is defined by its purpose and consequently obeys specific rules; but "the human person . . . is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions." - CCC 1881

    and finally:

    "Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. the right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person." - CCC 1738

    What I take from the combination of the passages above is that true freedom is comprised of the proper balance of individualism and collectivism. The dignity, freedom and moral enhancement of the individual should be the sole end of social institutions, but this primacy of the individual over the institution does not diminish the importance of the collective, since social interaction and organization is part of the individual's very nature and is thus crucial to the attainment and maintenance of the dignity, freedom and morality of each.

    Freedom is only meaningful in relation to others, and we are free to the extent we mutually respect the natural dignity of each other. With increasing freedom comes the increasingly personal nature of responsibility for our actions, and it is this sense of personal responsibility that provides the foundation for moral enhancement.

    (I thought it would be okay to quote from the Catechism, since it is a discussion of the Church's social policy and not its theology.)

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

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    1. Yes, it is okay to bring into the conversation Catholic social policy. Otherwise I would pretty much have to ban most of my own work!

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  4. "Elegant" is what come to mind.
    I also sense some finality to it, so what is next? Must there be a next? We can't keep running around the same track do we?

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    1. What's next? I think, philosophically, to find a way to incorporate this "social life" which is inherent in man into something that can legitimately be defended within the framework of the NAP - just as libertarians accept as proper defense of property and (a very narrow definition of) life.

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  5. Thanks for your continued musings on the subject bionic. I just finished an interesting essay from Richard Weaver: Two Types of American Individualism. Here is a taste:

    "Light can be shed on our problem by examining two types of American individualism, each of which has had a major prophet. One of the types is not now, and I think never was, a feasible form of individualism, though there is something about it which fascinates a part of our nature. The other is not only feasible but is today very much needed, when the forces of regimentation and the example of totalitarianism are threatening to sweep away every principle of distinction that stands in their path. … Thoreau stood for individual isolation, but failed to see the consequences. Another way of meeting a dilemma is to slip between the horns, which means to find a third alternative without the painful consequences of the other two. The exponent of that method was John Randolph of Roanoke, now a half legendary figure, termed a “political fantastic” by one of his recent biographers and called a dangerous person by another critic, yet a figure of unique interest to one who has studied his career. Randolph stood with equal firmness against imperialism, especially in its disguised form of government welfarism, but he found an alternative to this and to simple withdrawal. … As a defender of the dignity and autonomy of the smaller unit, he was constantly fighting the battle for local rights. But it was the essence of his position that the battle must be fought within the community, not outside the community and not through means that would in effect deny all political organization. … Randolph never lost sight of the truth expressed in Aristotle’s dictum that man is a political animal. His individualism is, therefore, what I am going to call “social bond” individualism. It battles unremittingly for individual rights, while recognizing that these have to be secured within the social context … The point I seek to make is that Randolph could not visualize men’s solving political questions through simple self-isolation. … Common interest was the final justification of government, the source of the means of operation, the assurance that it would not become perverted or despotic. … [I]f we are interested in rescuing individualism in this age of conformity and actual regimentation, it is the Randolphian kind which we must seek to cultivate. Social bond individualism is civil and viable and constructive except perhaps in very abnormal situations. Anarchic individualism is revolutionary and subversive from the very start; it shows a complete despite for all that civilization or the social order has painfully created, and this out of self-righteousness or egocentric attachment to an idea."

    I also like this piece from Tom Woods:
    Defending the "Little Platoons"; Communitarianism in
    American Conservatism

    file:///home/chronos/u-ae0aba2b0d1df39b4065ed509352621840ae7356/Downloads/2669-2999-1-PB.pdf

    Brion McClanahan also hits these themes often in his two podcasts. Here is his most recent from the Brion Mclanahan show (the main theme of which is "Think Locally, Act Locally"):
    https://www.brionmcclanahan.com/blog/podcast-episode-167-think-small-is-catching-on/

    He also does a weekly podcast for the Abbeville Insitute:
    https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/topics/podcast/


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    1. Another great comment, kudos to you.

      I like this in particular:

      "[I]f we are interested in rescuing individualism in this age of conformity and actual regimentation, it is the Randolphian kind which we must seek to cultivate. Social bond individualism is civil and viable and constructive except perhaps in very abnormal situations."

      And the Tom Woods link is brilliant too...I had no idea he touched on the subject, Wood's intellect and breadth astounds me, and it seems he's just hitting his stride.

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