…call it interim, as I still plan to read, write and learn. You might think of this as the closing chapter of a book that is still being written. (You could consider this the opening chapter).
The most fruitful and meaningful topic that I have explored at this blog is that of the intersection of libertarianism and culture. My first baby steps on this topic began with the recognition that the non-aggression principle couldn’t define or apply itself; it couldn’t objectively identify all of the practical applications to be drawn out from the theory; it wouldn’t be applied in every society in the same manner.
My next steps took me to working through the benefits of a common culture, which quickly led me to a specific culture, a culture and tradition where the concepts of the non-aggression principle were most broadly applied and for an extended period – the Christian Middle Ages. Why was this so? What was unique about this time and place? What was it about the various institutions that created this environment of decentralized law and governance?
Finally, exploring where it went wrong: the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and Progressivism. Each played a role, perhaps. But what was the role? We see the benefits from such movements, but what of the cost? What did this Age of Reason remove from the earlier medieval society that then also took away the underlying foundations that supported decentralized governance and libertarian law?
Of course, my steps didn’t follow in this precise sequence, but generally this describes the road. And while I have touched on the topic of what this all means, perhaps now is a good time to summarize just that.
A Strategy for Liberty
Yes, I have stolen this from the title of chapter 15 of Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. Rothbard offers:
If, then, the libertarian must advocate the immediate attainment of liberty and abolition of statism, and if gradualism in theory is contradictory to this overriding end, what further strategic stance may a libertarian take in today’s world? Must he necessarily confine himself to advocating immediate abolition? Are “transitional demands,” steps toward liberty in practice, necessarily illegitimate? No…
How, then, can we know whether any halfway measure or transitional demand should be hailed as a step forward or condemned as an opportunistic betrayal? There are two vitally important criteria for answering this crucial question: (1) that, whatever the transitional demands, the ultimate end of liberty be always held aloft as the desired goal; and (2) that no steps or means ever explicitly or implicitly contradict the ultimate goal.
While I have not read the book in some time, to my recollection (and a quick look at the chapter titles), what Rothbard had in focus was the political and economic: education, welfare, inflation, streets, police, courts, etc. I suggest something else – you may consider it an alternative; I consider it complimentary, as I don’t preclude any path toward increased liberty and decreased state.
It was from Ryan McMaken where I first heard the phrase (and I may be paraphrasing his original words; if so, mine are better): libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice. It was one of those phrases that I immediately recognized as succinctly capturing an idea that I was unable to put into words.
Libertarianism in practice is nothing if not allowing each individual (though I would say family) to have ever-increasing choices about the politics and law that they might live under, the social fabric in which they choose to live (and the social fabric that acts as a source for and defense of the chosen politics and law).
Libertarianism in practice is most definitely not one law and society for all of humanity – yet this seems to be in the sights of many libertarians. Anyone who advocates this is both an immature utopian and an advocate (knowingly or unknowingly) of tyranny. To believe that seven billion people around the world want to live within a system of politics, law, culture and tradition as derived by some pimply-faced kid in front of a keyboard in his mom’s basement is to call for a Stalin to rescue humanity from its sin.
Regarding decentralization, libertarians in the west have great news on this front: there are countless such movements throughout Europe and America pointing exactly in this direction. The National Front in France, the Northern League in Italy, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and the UK Independence Party, the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, Brexit in Europe and, of course, Trump in the United States. There are countless secessionist movements, Catalonia being one of the more well-known examples.
There are many – and varied – reasons behind these movements, but perhaps they can be summarized via concerns of globalist and elitist economic policies, massively subsidized immigration, and unending war. The people are making a statement: we want less of this; we want to stop being controlled by Brussels, NATO, Washington, New York and London. We want less of the various international crony deals and agreements.
Of course, not all libertarians see this push for decentralization as good news. It seems to be because they do not approve of the choices made by others regarding their own governance – in other words, they believe that they have the answer for everyone else’s liberty. Kind of like Karl Marx.
If they so favor the individual as sovereign – as many of them do (and I do not, at least not in the same meaning) – how do they expect to get to seven billion sovereign “nations” without first getting past the two hundred or so we have today? So I say support this secession and then support the next one and then the one after that: we even have an example of this today, with Scotland considering an exit from the UK given Brexit. I say support them all.
I don’t get it: how does support of state, international, and supranational organizations, plans, and agreements help achieve this seven-billion-individual sovereignty? It doesn’t. Which suggests that libertarians opposed to these movements are either naïve or are working toward an end different than your liberty.
In any case, this is of no matter. It is happening, no matter what those pimply-faced kids are writing on their blogs. If free markets, Austrian Economics, and human action mean anything at all, these mean that the trend we see in the political will continue. Central planning does not and cannot work – it didn’t in the Soviet Union, and it will not in these national and supranational organizations. As this reality continues to makes its presence felt, support for such decentralizing movements will only continue to grow.
In other words, the wind is at our back on this one.
Culture and Tradition
Early on in this journey, I concluded that a common cultural tradition would be beneficial – in fact necessary – if a society was to move toward and sustain liberty: for example, generally accepted views on the application of the terms aggression, property, punishment, etc. Many of you will recall my views of shooting a child for picking (or stealing) a farmer’s apple and what such an action might mean for the future of “liberty” in the community.
My oft-used example of the new neighbors and their Sunday afternoon front-lawn sex orgies seemed to get the idea across pretty well; the neighborhood of back-yard grillers, not so much. It isn’t that a common culture is sufficient to move toward liberty; I just find it necessary.
I began developing the view that it wasn’t just a common culture, but one grounded on basic traditions of Western Civilization – grounded in Christianity as influenced by the Germanic tribes of early medieval Europe.
It is only here where I have found a law and tradition that corresponded well to what I would expect to find in libertarian law: law not created by man, but found in the old and the good; all equal under the law; man bound to each other by individual oath – and bound only if the other party kept his end of the bargain; the king under the law – not creating the law, only enforcing it; each noble vested with veto power.
It is only here where the secular and the religious each had separate and divided authority, each keeping the other in check – at times one or the other with more authority, but neither with a monopoly.
It is only here where the idea of the individual first began to take root – not after the Enlightenment, but during the Middle Ages. It was an individual bounded by the tradition and custom of Christendom – this tradition and custom was all wrapped up in the concept of “individual.” And it was only after this tradition and custom of Christendom – perhaps, more specifically, Christianity – was tossed out that the “individual” became destructive, as opposed to constructive, to liberty.
Why? Why did the individual go from being discovered and liberated to irrelevant and enslaved – as individuals truly are today? Clearly the lack of tension between church and king contributed – with the king eventually taking monopoly power.
And it wasn’t just the moving of the church to secondary; the church wasn’t the only competing authority institution. There were numerous intermediate and intermediating institutions between the individual and the king, each with its own authority in its own sphere, each substantial enough to provide some form of check on the king’s authority.
As the individual was brought to the fore, gradually each of these intermediating bodies lost authority; in the end – and we see this as fact today – there is nothing of authority to stand between the individual and the state.
But more fundamentally, a cohesiveness was lost – a common faith, a common ethic. A moral people need no laws; as humans aren’t perfectly moral, humans bound by a moral tradition need only few laws. When the Church (or the church) had a position of esteem and authority, it was able to perform this function – teaching a moral life, sanctioning those who did not abide. Not a sanction with prison – well, at least not a prison on this earth.
Of course, not all libertarians would agree with this – many see religion as a hindrance to, if not the enemy of, liberty. I just keep in mind: something or someone will govern. Better a law that is above all men; better a cultural ethic that is supportive of moral behavior (hence, less need for legislation) than a cultural ethic that says all morality is relative (hence increasing demands for a heavy-handed state to solve the problems that come with relative morality).
Is there a solution on the horizon here? I only see one, and that is for Christian leaders to start teaching Christianity, which means preaching against much of what they currently preach for: war, torture, spying by the state, unconditional support for Israel, unconditional obedience to the government. It means speaking truth on all issues associated with individualism run wild; just consider the dozens of various gender-identity labels in existence today or gender-neutral (I can’t believe I am writing such words) bathrooms and let your mind roam free from there.
It means Christian leaders start to teach on living a productive and moral life. We know, today, that there is a market for this. It has taken a secular preacher to show the way. Jordan Peterson is selling out halls to speak on a productive and moral life, taking the Biblical stories and applying them in a meaningful way in today’s world. Young people – and certainly young men – are flocking to this story. There is a market opportunity, as the demand seems high.
Christian leaders have the pulpit (literally and figuratively), they have the audience, they have the institution behind them; most importantly, they have the Gospels – fully supportive of such a message. Note: I don’t speak of theocracy; instead, I suggest a cultural ethic that is conducive to man living in a free society. Even many atheists (and perhaps better than many Christians today) already live this ethic.
When it takes a psychology professor to lead the Christian charge, it is clear we are facing headwinds.
None. This post is the conclusion…at least for now.
"...the solution of the problems confronting the world as a whole does not seem to lie in the creation of still bigger social units and still vaster governments whose formation is now attempted with such unimaginative fanaticism by our statesmen. It seems to lie in the elimination of those overgrown organisms that go by the name of great powers, and in the restoration of a healthy system of small and easily manageable states such as characterized earlier ages.” - Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations
This is an author and a work that I think needs to be brought into the discussion. I've not read his book "Breakdown of Nations," but I'm happy to say, I'm about to purchase it, and I have a strong suspicion that we libertarian 'decentralizationists' will enjoy it.
"I don’t get it: how does support of state, international, and supranational organizations, plans, and agreements help achieve this seven-billion-individual sovereignty?" - BM
I've heard the argument, by leftists (and Sag), that breaking up states and international governing organizations will weaken the common man's resistance to the global international corporations' agendas of world domination. It's basically the same leftist argument resting on the fallacy that big powerful states protect us from the evil corporations, and by diminishing the power of these states, we may find ourselves helpless and naked before the will of these greedy private sociopaths.
These people need to learn some Austrian economics or some common sense in order to gain the insight that the corporations are powerful because of the power we've (or they've, if you prefer) vested in the state.
Sag's argument is a bit more nuanced and plausible than those put forward by leftists, but I believe it is still flawed and for the same reason. A small state - say Lichtenstein - still has superior power over a massive international corporation within it's own territorial limits, and even the individual has immense power over the grand corporations: just don't buy their stuff.
The massive monopoly governments and international governing organizations are the problem; decentralization is the solution.
Nice to hear my views described as a bit more nuanced, albeit compared to leftist loons, but hey, it's a start ;)
More nuanced as in completely opposed might be a better one, since, like most libertarians, I oppose the state.
What I did was to express my concern about libertarianism being unable to oppose globalism, even aid it. It's the globalists, not libertarians who are taking down states worldwide. Should libertarians feel relieved? Should they applaud the controlled demolition that's going on in preparation for some supra-national new order? I Dutch there's a saying about trying to drive out the devil with Beelzebub. If today's states (thinking of tiny Europe here) are our disease then the "cure" of a globalist order is far worse and no boon to liberty, me thinks.
Btw, can you advise me on any particular "stuff" I shouldn't buy from the Soros org? Would love to use my immense power as an individual here as I'm sure many would.
I once heard it said that increasing liberty always reduces or limits the state, but that it doesn't follow that shrinking the state always increases individual liberty. It's a bit more nuanced than this simple formula, but it serves well enough as a starting point. So feel free to portray this as nuanced leftism. I know you know it ain't.
Well said. I concede that I did not characterize your views in a fair manner, and I apologize. It was just laziness on my part.
" the "cure" of a globalist order is far worse and no boon to liberty, me thinks."
Yes, but don't these globalists require state power to keep building their wealth through central bank inflation and corporate protectionism? Don't they need massive state power to protect their investments all over the world? If we scale back states, especially the American State, this will hurt their portfolios immensely.
I agree with you, however that this is a nuanced argument. Keeping the American State huge and centralized while breaking up everywhere else may pose problems for everyone's liberty.
Leopold Kohr touches on these sorts of power imbalances (in regards to a federalist system though) in his book "The Breakdown of Nations" that I linked to elsewhere on this comment section. It may be worth it to see how he addressed this issue.
The state created these globalist giants, and now these giants own the state. Any attempt to attack their power base by giving the state more authority will end badly. I think the only way we can defeat the globalist agenda is to secede or nullify, reduce central state budgets, reduce central state spending, get out of international governmental orgs like NATO, NAFTA, EU, and Paris Climate Accords, etc. and otherwise bring back power and authority to local levels as much as possible.
But maybe a balance of power must be kept in mind. All I know is that Texas seceding from the US will be a big win for liberty, and that's why this is my main political prerogative.
In no particular order:
"Any attempt to attack their power base by giving the state more authority will end badly."
Wholly agreed. Just to be sure: this is a critique of the leftist/statist position, not mine.
What I'm saying is that freedom loving folk need to attack both. What I'm seeing more often than not, is libertarians focussing almost exclusively on the State. This partial blind spot, I find, is cause for concern.
"Yes, but don't these globalists require state power to keep building their wealth through central bank inflation and corporate protectionism?"
In my book, a "yes, but" is almost a "no". But hey.. here's where we agree, at least in part if you'd replace wealth by control. I really don't think that beyond the umpteenth billion, wealth is a big concern any longer. I agree that the globalist household brands have profited tremendously from the corporatist scheme still firmly in place today. But with that being true, what still concerns me is the prospect that there may come a point where they no longer need state power to carry out their plans for global control. As I said, states are being dismantled as we type, and it's not libertarians doing any of the dismantling.
As to your remarks about states being vastly more powerful, I point to phenomena like the "Arab Spring" and all of these regime changing colour "revolutions," driven - at least in part - by stateless globalist NGOs. This is not to deny state power, just pointing out the bigger picture, and other places where power is concentrated at the cost of freedom. For it is the concentration of Power imo that libertarians should fight, not just power concentrated in the State.
"All I know is that Texas seceding from the US will be a big win for liberty"
Hear hear. If any state should be dismantled first, it should be the US in my opinion. To the benefit of the world in general (less neocon wars) and the American nation in particular.
So how's that Texit blog developing?
Best from Amsterdam,
While I have always agreed with you on both the necessity and the inevitability of decentralization, I still don't get why you think we should support every cessation movement. A fair number of them are obviously destined to fail. Others might initially succeed, but leave one or more of the divisions helpless against hostile neighbors. Still others, like those the US has supported in the ME, are little more than strongmen fighting to become tyrants over some portion of a population.ReplyDelete
I think if you are composing a book, you should address these situations somewhere. The idea that every split off will result in a permanent progression toward decentralization seems unrealistic to me, and if I am to lend support to such a movement, I would prefer to concentrate my resources on those I believe will be both lasting and positive for the people involved.
War, that’s an interesting topic. I will come to this last; in the meantime, consider secession by vote – such as Brexit, Catalonia, etc. Or consider secession by relatively peaceful means such as the former Soviet Union.
“The idea that every split off will result in a permanent progression toward decentralization seems unrealistic to me”
I don’t know what permanent means in this context. Borders ebb and flow, empires come and go. All I can offer is that every decentralization brings more choice today; some of these will be successful (however that term is defined) and others may not. But none will be successful unless they are supported.
In any case, it is not my place to say to those who want to secede from an existing state, “No! You don’t get it. You will not be freer. Your plan might not even work. You will live in a socialist enclave.” Well, what if the people there want to live in a socialist enclave?
If liberty means anything, it means choosing the governance institutions under which we choose to live. But we don’t get unlimited choices; we can either have more choices or fewer choices. Further, if the seceding entity truly is full of loons (i.e. someone with the opposite political and cultural values than mine), I say good riddance – it leaves what remains closer to my view.
A simple example in the US would be California: wouldn’t both Californians and the rest of the country get government institutions closer to what they prefer if California were to secede? Now, each party in this divorce might think that the other party is a loon – but who cares? They go their own way – with each of them saying “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
But…what of the Californians who will be unsatisfied with this outcome? Well, now they have more choice – a choice more conservative than currently exists today. They could move east just a few miles. Additionally, why not a further secession – divide California into 3 or 6 parts: conservative in the far north, far south and the east, and liberal along the coasts between Los Angeles to at least San Francisco.
A better example: how about all of the red counties (or red states) from 2016 go one way and all the blue counties (or blue states) go the other? After all, nothing says a “country” must be completely contiguous – many today, including the United States, are not. Now, wouldn’t the residents in each of red and blue find governance and cultural norms closer to their liking?
The issue is…we don’t get to individual governance or even family governance until we go through these steps. Not everyone will be happy, but everyone will have more choice. I don’t think the libertarian road travels any further than ever-expanding choices about the governance we each choose to live under – there is no universal utopia and there is no shortcut to individual freedom that can avoid secession and decentralization.
If we go from the current 200 or so to a 1000 or more governance units, wouldn’t this be a good thing?
War. This is interesting. You are correct to point this out. A judgment would have to be made. For example, an enclave in Eastern Ukraine might prefer to be joined to Russia, but the Ukrainian government starts a war to prevent this. Of course, given these facts, I would support the secession. I would say something similar regarding the Kurds.
But regarding the Middle East…everything I know about these situations is that these fights are brought on by outside agitators; the large portion of the populations were OK with what they had before. Such scenarios I hadn’t considered as “secession”; I always felt these were just external actors causing turmoil.
"In any case, it is not my place to say to those who want to secede from an existing state, “No! You don’t get it. You will not be freer. Your plan might not even work. You will live in a socialist enclave.” Well, what if the people there want to live in a socialist enclave?"Delete
If by support you mean don't oppose, then I have no argument at all. I would not oppose a movement to secede, especially if I were not personally involved. But I would not lend support to one I believed would not be successful and durable.
I would also point out that many secession movements are sparked by outside agitators, not just those in the ME, and not just through war. I'm thinking of world improvers like George Soros as well as government funded organizations.
And finally, the boundaries of most of the world's countries have been determined not through popular and peaceful movements, but through war and/or violent rebellion. Maybe I'm missing the point, but I don't expect that to change any time soon. I'm not sure how the inclusion of violence disqualifies a movement as one of secession.
So where does an adherent to the NAP draw the line between what is and is not a (supportable) secession movement? The waters just seem very muddy around this topic.
Jeff, yes the waters might be a bit muddier than I allowed. My thinking was around events like Brexit, the vote in Scotland before this, Catalonia, Crimea, half the countries in Europe upset with Brussels. Before all of this, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.Delete
In the context of recent history and current political events in the west, the means have been thus and this is what is on my mind; this is what I see as the wind at our back. When the topic of secessionist movements has been raised in recent history, it has been by ballot, not bullet.
My blood pressure on this topic went up when reading libertarians who opposed the vote in Catalonia. In the world we live in today, voting is about as peaceful a means to decentralize as we have available to us, and for various reasons this was opposed. On this I can make an absolute statement in support of the secessionist movement.
I don't preclude war as a valid method - see my comment regarding Ukraine. There is an example involving a region of Azerbaijan where this would also apply. But I think war is where some judgment is required. I guess if residents are willing to vote for it or fight for it, I can support it.
I can support it even if the new entity is not a Rothbardian paradise. As mentioned, if Californians want to secede and form their own SJW paradise, who am I to say that it isn't allowed or that it will fail. It isn't my business.
Plus, I can say "good riddance." Like when the rotten next door neighbor moves away; I don’t have to be bothered by them anymore.
But I will ask you: if not this path, then what? In 50 years of libertarian politics, about the only success I see is pot legalization – and even that I am not sure can be attributed to libertarian think-tanks and certainly not libertarian politicians.
"I'm not sure how the inclusion of violence disqualifies a movement as one of secession." - JeffDelete
It doesn't, but I think we'd all prefer peaceful and rational separation as opposed to violent and bloody.
I think most secession movements can be supported on some level, though there are only a few scenarios that I could see myself risking my life and my family's well being. But some secession movements we can simply 'cheer on' for whatever that's worth. Others we may want to contribute financially toward. Whether to contribute or not, and if so, how much? - is more of an art than a science I think.
You bring up a good point about outside (CIA, Soros, etc.) agitation. We should not be thrilled about civil or secessionary wars funded by outside groups like Soros or the USG, but even breakups like these may end up contributing toward liberty in the long run. Due to the nature of the short run consequences, however, I don't believe we should support these on any level. I don't know though, it seems like there could be exceptions.
For instance, I am interested to see if the Kurdistan project is going to succeed, and I believe they were being funded by the US to fight ISIS. It is an interesting case of a long standing ethnic group which is seeking independence, not from one state, but four (Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey)!
There are other cases of secession where the libertarian (or just any decent human being) might not be so thrilled. What if the group advocating secession is a militant minority of extremists wishing to ethnically or ideologically 'cleanse' the area once they've achieved sovereignty?
Overall, I think you have a very reasonable view on this, and you've raised some crucial areas to be addressed (war, outside influence). Thanks!
Here are some links that may offer some insights I am not capable of providing if you have the time to look through or listen to them:
Ryan McMaken - If the Majority Votes to Secede — What About the Minority?
Hans Hoppe - The Advantages of Small States and the Dangers of Centralization
Murray Rothbard - Nations by Consent
Leopold Kohr - The Breakdown of Nations (I haven't yet read this last one, but it seems promising)
“In the context of recent history and current political events in the west, the means have been thus and this is what is on my mind; this is what I see as the wind at our back. When the topic of secessionist movements has been raised in recent history, it has been by ballot, not bullet.”Delete
I hope you are correct. The move for peace could really use a tail wind. I have been expecting something much different, but I like your version better. I didn’t oppose the vote in Catalonia. At the time I didn’t think I knew enough to even comment intelligently on it. Anything I said would have been parroting something I had just read from someone else.
“I don't preclude war as a valid method - see my comment regarding Ukraine. There is an example involving a region of Azerbaijan where this would also apply. But I think war is where some judgment is required. I guess if residents are willing to vote for it or fight for it, I can support it. “
Wars of aggression may not be valid methods deserving of support, but they do quite often result in decentralization of one sort or another. But I don’t think I would even support a just war, probably because I have so few examples of such in my historical inventory. I can’t think of a single one at the moment.
“But I will ask you: if not this path, then what? In 50 years of libertarian politics, about the only success I see is pot legalization – and even that I am not sure can be attributed to libertarian think-tanks and certainly not libertarian politicians.”
On a forum I used to follow one user’s tag line was, “if you’re not part of the problem, you’re part of the solution”. That’s a pretty succinct statement of my personal feelings. I’m afraid we libertarians will never be effective activists. I try to not judge others who want to wade into the fray and “do some good”, but my personal experience with that impulse has been entirely negative. For me, activism ends at the boundaries of my extended family and circle of friends.
In any case my comments weren't meant as criticism of your position. I was mostly trying to point out the possibility of readers misinterpreting it as support for more than you intended.
Jeff, your comments have been very helpful to bring clarity to my blanket statement. I will think on this some more. I find this constructive. ThanksDelete
ATL, I will go through a couple of the links you provided. Thanks for these.Delete
Regarding wars for secession...it is so often impossible to see through the fog of who is funding it, who is behind it, does the local population really want it, etc.
At the same time, there are times when a local population feels threatened by the larger state. Can we know if their uprising is organic or artificial...while we sit comfortably on the other side of the world? Likely not.
But there are minorities who feel threatened. At some point, fighting is all that's left.
Yes, it seems, I should exercise nuance in my statement of support; but I really did not have war in mind, instead the various popular uprisings at the voting booth.
I was thinking of the reality that voting is the only peaceful means such a desire can be expressed in the west; these, I believe, should always be supported.
"I was thinking of the reality that voting is the only peaceful means such a desire can be expressed in the west; these, I believe, should always be supported."Delete
I don't generally consider voting to be a peaceful means of settling much of anything. Personally, I would prefer a mass uprising, peaceful if possible, the people giving the PTB a collective middle finger.
Voting implies the ones printing the ballot, and the ones counting the votes, and the ones enforcing the results are all relatively fair minded. My experience and admittedly limited knowledge of history tells me that doesn't happen, ever.
Jeff, now I am confused. Just as with the war examples you offered, how would you know that a "mass uprising" is organic – a true representation of the desires of the local population? You see a mass uprising - do you support it or not? What if the majority of your neighbors do not support it? What if it is a false flag, created by a state actor - internal or external - to make an excuse for a government crackdown? How do you decide? How do you answer each of these questions with any certainty?Delete
Further, how do you see a mass uprising successfully moving a country toward liberty - "peacefully"? There was only one example perhaps since the Enlightenment or even Reformation of which I am aware - the disbanding of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Communist countries.
Even this wasn't "peaceful" (see the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the earlier years of the Cold War) until the Soviet government knew that it was completely hopeless. How many centuries from now do you see the economic situation in the United States being comparably hopeless? Because until then, the weapons they use against us (military, technology/spying, taxing) won't disappear.
In other words, a peaceful mass uprising might be what you “prefer,” but I believe you run harder into the wall of reality than do I – and since we began this discussion, I have modified the placement of my wall.
You add “if possible.” So you would take a violent uprising if necessary? Now I am totally confused. As to the collective middle finger – if you are waiting for something approaching 100% of the population (the collective) to have the same political desires as you, you will be waiting a 1000 lifetimes – just look around you today and tell me if you think this is possible anytime soon.
Look, I am not trying to be a jerk – I am truly confused by your position.
In any case, when I have referred to voting, I have stated that it is peaceful *in the context of today's world.* *Relative to every other choice available to us, there is no more peaceful method.* Certainly less blood will be shed than in a mass uprising, peaceful or not.
It worked for Brexit, it would have worked in Catalonia had force not been used by the federal government to crush the “peaceful” uprising. It is working with the rise of the various alternative political parties – and even Trump – as I mentioned in this piece.
The economics of the west – especially, at the moment, the EU – will force this transition. It may come through the ballot sooner, or it may come through economic reality later. We are getting decentralization in this relatively peaceful manner.
I am not going to look a gift-horse in the mouth.
BM, you do make a good point. I need to think about this more. I have not been expecting peaceful decentralization at all (nor do I now), so have also not been thinking about what one would look like in today's world.Delete
ATL: "You bring up a good point about outside (CIA, Soros, etc.) agitation. We should not be thrilled about civil or secessionary wars funded by outside groups like Soros or the USG, but even breakups like these may end up contributing toward liberty in the long run. Due to the nature of the short run consequences, however, I don't believe we should support these on any level. I don't know though, it seems like there could be exceptions."
This is my main problem with the idea of support. What makes me different than Soros? I do like cheering them on, but providing material support will almost always be outside the boundaries of my personal brand of Christianity. For me, the means and the ends are the same from a moral perspective.
Thanks for the links. I haven't read McMacken's or Kohr's, and it's been a few years since I've seen the others. Now I have something to do tomorrow besides laundry : )
Jeff, we each leave this conversation with something to think about. In other words, a very good conversation. Thank you.Delete
Again, from Hulsmann on Mises. Nymeyer, a Calvinist publisher: “In regard to questions of ethics, I have come to the conclusion that the economics of Mises constitutes by far the most satisfactory means to modernize the ethics of the Hebrew-Christian religion. When that kind of synthesis is made, one turns out to be an extraordinarily conservative adherent of the Christian religion. But also some of the absurdities are removed.” You have a very good list of the absurdities that are preached for rather than against.ReplyDelete
As I am sure you know, Gary North spent decades on his life going through the entire Bible to write on passages that had something to do with economics.Delete
As you also know, he is a follower of Misesesian / Rothbardian economic thought.
“The human mind in its search for knowledge resorts to philosophy or theology precisely because it aims at an explanation of problems that the natural sciences cannot answer.” MisesDelete
(Good) Culture must fill the gaps. You, Mr. Mosquito, are doing a hell of a job helping this simple-minded man understand that. Thank you!
Your blog is doing as much as Mises’ Seminars.
Eric, you are very kind. Thank you.Delete
Thank you for your service. You'll have earned every moment of free time that is accrued due to this decision.ReplyDelete
Oh, I don't know that I will take a break. I just felt it time to plant a signpost - a marker of my current condition.Delete
But thank you.
OK, I just have to ask: Mew York, is that a typo or ...ReplyDelete
Typo. Fixed. Thanks.Delete
I find very little to disagree with in this post.ReplyDelete
Maybe just one thing: Christianity. I would certainly want the preachers to return to more biblical teachings. But it may be too little too late. Christianity would imo need a good 'bridge' to science, otherwise science will probably mop up whatever remains of christianity.
I see an increase in book titles concerning the human genome. The next 10-20 years may well be dominated by an increasing insight into our own behaviours and motivations. Its maybe too early to call, but I won't be surprised if the next 10/20 years will see new idea's for societal organisation emerging. Completely wiping out the traditional left/right thinking. And even libertarian thinking.
I'm very glad to hear that I misread this post.ReplyDelete
"...On February 27, 2009, James Dobson conceded that we have lost the culture wars. This is the consequence of Christians having spent the last two centuries lopping at the rotten branches of our culture’s corrupt tree while watering and fertilizing its roots.ReplyDelete
"We should lop away at the tree’s corrupt branches (infanticide, sodomy, the economy, etc.). However, until the root of these problems is Biblically addressed, we will never shut down the infanticide mills, we will never defeat the sodomites, and we will never fix the economy. In short, we will never win the culture wars. This issue is more than important for anyone concerned about God, our nation, and the future of our posterity, it’s the cutting- edge issue of our day...."
For more, see our Featured Blog Article "5 Reasons the Constitution is Our Cutting-Edge Issue" at http://www.bibleversusconstitution.org/.
Then find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.
“Why did the individual go from being discovered and liberated to irrelevant and enslaved…the lack of tension between church and king contributed – with the king eventually taking monopoly power. “ BionicReplyDelete
Because the church has only the power of moral instruction, while kings, presidents and politicians all have the superior power of political force? Perhaps when a majority of churches agreed with leftists, that regulatory market interference, weapons enforced foreign “salvation,” legal discrimination, freedom, taxation, charity and justice were all synonymous, today’s draconian political and social control became inevitable?
I wish I could encourage you during your interim, to consider that the underlying cause of this destruction of civilized behavior is _exclusively_ leftist politics; it's political entitlements erasing the observable, absolute line between aggressive theft and cooperative charity/economic exchange. Leftism is responsible for what is now global exploitation and social hostility; its impossible attempt to forcibly equalize the finances and social status of that which does not exist. These are the leftist abstract conceptualizations of collective action, reified into concretely existing human oppressors/victims; those of classes, races, males/females, cultures, religions, homo/hetero lifestyles. Because this cannot succeed, but are USA political practices, the results are today’s circumstances; a progressively increasing degree of enforced conformity, causing the same increasing degree of social/political hostility. But these are the results of collectivism, not unpracticed individualism.
The propaganda encourages the gullible to use criminal theft and drug deals to supplement tax funded social services, believing themselves entitled to “steal from the rich, for the benefit of the poor;” the rich being anyone with more than possessed by self, including other poor people. The result is violent no-go urban centers in every city and increasing rural criminality; not caused by the unpracticed mutually cooperative economics and social freedom of individualism, also libertarianism. Rather these results are those of a numerical majority supportive of leftism's collectivist politics, indoctrinated with its propaganda, against which no church, cultural value nor political opposition can stand, nor ever did. The mutually caring social civility, resulting from politically protected individual freedom, exactly those of Western culture and Christianity, is now gone; both viciously condemned where ever not legally prohibited.
jr, leftism did not spring up from whole cloth, nor was it created by God from nothing on the sixth day.Delete
Bionic, Honestly as short as I could get it and still get it all in. It occurred to me, you might be thinking I am using what I call “philosobabble” as a self enhancing sabotage of your blog’s credibility, so decided to use familiar terms. Just failed to consider these terms wouldn’t be familiar to many others.Delete
So, I am dividing politics into “libs,” including this blog and its commenters and “leftists, as there is no such creature as a “left libertarian.”
Christian, Western libs’ values hierarchy is the Christian God, His commandments, Jesus, then Western cultural traditions as their highest values, respectively. They recognize that “country” is an abstract, often thought to be a higher value than God and cultural traditions. Libs recognize that “country” is an abstract thought, of no physically existing value to anyone, but is often mentally hardened into a universally superior value, then used by political power seekers to validate any kind and degree of exploitation as necessary for the “good of the country.”
Libs, including you folks, are not demanding either a theocracy or politically imposed monoculture. Instead libs want freedom from both, for those of every religion and culture. This is also freedom from leftist politicized Christian persecution and politically enforced favoritism/discrimination of multiculturalism, as well as the incessant leftist social demonization of both Christianity and Western culture. The results of lib _political action_ is self segregated values oriented communities, defended rather than prohibited, because values oriented self segregation is not social hostility, but harmony.
Libs separate both cultural traditions and religions from political action, consciously or not, realizing that neither of these two _values_ are oppressive, just as sharing a Thanksgiving dinner or a prayer are not oppressive. Leftists, including the pseudo-libertarian left, conflate political action with the twin stereotypes of non-existent oppressors/victims, so as to claim non-existent political exploitation has created a non-existent inequality in social status and financial disparity, that must be equalized with enforced redistribution of incomes and opportunities from oppressors to victims and enforced integration. Because stereotypes do not exist, the _political action_ enriches some individuals who suffered no oppression, with the profits and opportunities of other individuals who oppressed no one. This arouses massive hostility over class redistribution and leftist identity politics, as the stereotypes of classes, cultures, races, genders, etc. neither exist, nor are identities, nor knowledge of who oppressed whom and who oppressed no one.
_I_ am saying there are two reasons the left now owns the Libertarian Party:
One is that libs cannot bring themselves to murmur the word “stereotype” and neither leftists nor libs understand the synonymous phrase, “categorized sets of values reified into opposing, collectively determined groups of collectively acting people.”
The other reason is that libs are too polite to say that the only people around here that are suppressin’, stealin’ and stereotypin’ are thieving lefty bigots. Even though libs could, likely would, phrase that politely. Because libs don’t, the alt.right is attracting libs because they say just that, often more impolitely.Delete
I am also saying that libs cannot get their act together to oppose leftism, because they cannot explain that the origin of human action is not value choices, because they, as do leftists, as do most people, conflate values and action, as values originated human action. However that is not true, rather the origin of human action is _a choice of action in physical pursuit of values_, which is necessarily cooperation or aggression, criminal or politicized, as the only two forms of social interaction available to get whatever one wants from whoever has it.
The last paragraph was condensed into three paragraphs in my reply to ATL, (October 18, 2018 at 8:51 PM, on the page entitled “Is Libertarianism Sufficient for Liberty.”)
So the answer to whence sprang leftism, is that it’s been around since it was first recorded as “tribalism.” Always as values originated human action, with the idea of a superior value, that of the abstracts, tribe, country, nation, race, gender, etc. conflated with political action, resulting in endless hostility and violence over which superior abstract must suppress which inferior abstracts to save civilization from the barbarian hordes. The results are that political leadership gets into a tiff with other leadership and sends their soldiers off to war to settle it “for the good of the tribe, country, race, etc.” The two sides try to annihilate each other, and the side with the most survivors gets drunk and rapes all the women. Rinse and repeat.
Would you please confirm or deny what I have gotten wrong about either you in particular, or values or politics in general? And please be aware that I, as are you and the rest of your commenters, am in search of a mutual give and take discussion in which accurate thought is the winner, not any person, then carried forward as the sociopolitical action necessary to libertarian ends.
Sorry to trouble you, Bionic, but I forgot to write "con't" on the first part of my comment. The last part begins with the sentence, "The other reason is that libs are too polite to say that..." Would you please put them in the correct order if the are reversed?Delete
Mises described the 'planning problem' arguing the case for the superiority of the free market / price mechanism over central planning. Hayek produced the mathematical proof for it. Yet a new form of central planning arises vis a vis massively parallel massively distributed AI planning.ReplyDelete
The contribution of Austrians to this emerging system will be to ensure that its optimization algorithms work exclusively on behalf of the consumer. Not the producer. Not the worker. But entirely for the consumer’s benefit. It is at this point that all the political parties of the world tear up their charters. All the governments of the world terminate theirs. The capitol buildings are are put up for sale. The public school buildings are listed as commercial property for sale. Government courts throw away their dockets while government police departments shutter their doors because all economic planning is administered by the disinterested microcircuits of AI planning computers rather than any of the endless varieties of political malefactors having nothing but self interest at heart.
Blockchain based titling is already replacing cumbersome error prone government titling. Blockchain gold backed money is replacing government / fiat currency. Libertarian society will be that which remains after AI based algorithms finally replace all politically administered planning systems.
This libertarian society will not arise out of the spectacle of philosophical debate in which libertarians finally vanquish socialists but rather it will arise as if by stealth, unseen, and unexpectedly out of the radical massively parallel distributed technological transformation of the ‘planning function’.
Salvation by algorithm.Delete
As Stalin said, in anticipation of your faith, "How many divisions does the algorithm have?"
To think some central algorithm can plan an economy where the bureaucrats have failed is to misunderstand Mises' critique of socialism.
You have to have private ownership of resources and allow these private owners to trade based on voluntary mutual appraisal of the ordinal (ranked) value of one another's present and future goods with the help of a currency (or currencies) unmolested by the state. This is the only way we get meaningful prices which reflect and satisfy the needs of the complex interconnected web of evaluations and transactions that comprise a capitalist economy.
It's a prices problem, not an information problem as Hayek has incorrectly proposed.
"But to Mises the central problem is not "knowledge." He explicitly points out that even if the socialist planners knew perfectly, and eagerly wished to satisfy, the value priorities of the consumers, and even if the planners enjoyed a perfect knowledge of all resources and all technologies, they still would not be able to calculate, for lack of a price system of the means of production. The problem is not knowledge, then, but calculability. As Professor Salerno points out, the knowledge conveyed by present-or immediate "past"-prices is consumer valuations, technologies, supplies, etc. of the immediate or recent past. But what acting man is interested in, in committing resources into production and sale, is future prices, and the present committing of resources is accomplished by the entrepreneur, whose function is to appraise — to anticipate — future prices, and to allocate resources accordingly. It is precisely this central and vital role of the appraising entrepreneur, driven by the quest for profits and the avoidance of losses, that cannot be fulfilled by the socialist planning board, for lack of a market in the means of production. Without such a market, there are no genuine money prices and therefore no means for the entrepreneur to calculate and appraise in cardinal monetary terms." - Rothbard, The End of Socialism and the Calculation Debate Revistited
Also, blockchain technology doesn't count as AI.
"This libertarian society will not arise out of the spectacle of philosophical debate..."
You're probably correct here. As BM has stated, it will take cultural leaders, and specifically Christian ones, to accomplish this.
Totally agree Texas. And thanks for correcting my errant thinking on AI and economics. What I was trying to think about was the situation once the entrepreneur 'reads' the consumer. I think once the entrepreneur figures out what the consumer wants, the rest is a planning problem. My hope is that distributed parallel AI can take over and administer this planning aspect. AI coordinates the business processes necessary to produce what the entrepreneur has divined about the consumer. This allows for a centrality of goals but a distributed decentralized means to attain them. Now it is often said of roboticized industries that robots never get tired. AI administration of corporate activities will similarly eliminate vindictive treatment at the hands of imperious corporate bureaucrats. Corporate activities will become completely decentralized and distributed across the world while they coordinate and integrate them subject always to the entrepreneurs singular vision. And its not inconceivable that in time AI itself comes to play the role of the entrepreneur. Now the present widespread transnational corporation only multiplies and intensifies under such AI administration - but, and it cannot be overstated, to the benefit of the consumer, not the benefit of the owner as is the case in the present 'globalist' scheme. The globalist uses the present politically controlled legal system to gain an advantage. The AI administered corporation represents a pro consumer challenge to the globalist model. Once the consumer sufficiently grasps the superiority of the distributed parallel AI corporate governance, the present globalist model will be driven from the marketplace which in the endpoint means all political control will be driven from the marketplace. Politically contrived and enforced boundaries and borders will give way to free market free enterprise based borders which create a true economic good and for which their is real consumer demand. In this view AI plays a liberating role and the basis for a transition to libertarian society.ReplyDelete
Victor, are you suggesting something like the Zeitgeist movement?Delete
Also, what kind of AI are you proposing? There are many flavours, and depending on the definition it may not even exist yet.
I remember that in the late 80's AI was expected 'soon'. They even suggested that SW engineering could be a bad career choice!
All in all, your AI vision presupposed that demand can be modelled. But economics is a chaos "science" and it is impossible to model. I would suggest the book "Debunking Economics" from Steve Keen. (There are no such things as a demand curve or supply curve)
"My hope is that distributed parallel AI can take over and administer this planning aspect."
Why the emphasis on AI? Why can't it just be "I" as in you and I? Why does the introduction of a machine imply a better solution to the problem of economic forecasting?
"The AI administered corporation represents a pro consumer challenge to the globalist model."
What if it's the globalists agenda that the AI pursues? AI will undoubtedly be developed by engineers funded by these deep pockets either indirectly through the state or directly through a private corporation. Either AI will 1.) be developed to achieve the specific ends of its designers, undoubtedly funded and directed by the globalist cabal, or 2.) it will break free of any designed parameters, attain consciousness, and pursue ends of its own choice. In neither case can you assume that it will serve customers any more justly than do the globalists.
A machine is only as ethical as its creators intended it to be, and if it is truly intelligent and can learn and adopt behaviors the creators did not intend, then it can be just as unethical as the worst of us. Just as in the Isaac Asimov book "I Robot," AI can have unintended consequences even if it is bound by the "Three Laws of Robotics." The AI in this story turned into the worst sort of totalitarian 'do-gooder,' or as Isabel Paterson phrased it, "the humanitarian with the guillotine."
Forecasting human action is impossible unless you override free will with totalitarian oppression and control, and even then you run into all sorts of feedback problems and unforeseen consequences: diminishing living standards, starvation, war, insurrection, mutiny, emigration, nullification, revolution, etc. AI won't be able to do this any better or more ethical than people can. Like being a musician, there are scientific or mathematical aspects of being an entrepreneur, but much of an entrepreneur's success depends on the artistry of his craft - in anticipating the free decisions of consumers, organizing the factors of production and delivering products they will enjoy and purchase.
In order to be an entrepreneur, you need to anticipate the agency of others. To anticipate the agency of others, agency is required. To have agency is to have free will. Free will needs moral guidance. Moral guidance has historically been best offered by religion. Will AI's have religion? I'd rather put my faith in humans than machines. Humans were made by the Master of all creation; machines are made by amateur and myopic tinkerers in comparison.
P.S. Bitcoin, and blockchain technology in general, is very interesting, because far from being anonymous, it uses a distributed track record of all transactions as its primary security feature. This points back to the idea that freedom and anonymity do not go hand in hand. Anonymity in today's world only has elevated value because of the state. To defy the state, it's often best to remain anonymous, but anonymity brings with it many other problems, not least of which is increased social degeneracy. In the free world, 'onymity' (it's a word!) and the groups certifying your name, character, and history will become the primary tools of social and political regulation.
What I'm keen to suggest is that it will be applied AI, rather than say philosophical theorizing, which will act as the basis for a transformation from the political to the consumer control of society. I think GPS / driver-less car technology is a great example of how this will work. In the US there are some 100,000,000 traffic stops per year. The driverless car eliminates the traffic stop and thereby eliminates the way in which most Americans interact with the state vis a vis the states armed enforcement caste. The traffic court is eliminated as well - an entity most Americans regard as little more than a shakedown operation. I mentioned blockchain based property titling previously because it similarly acts to eliminate a huge chunk of state bureaucracy and attendant government legal proceedings. A hybrid 'smart contract' is emerging which combines AI and blockchain - a trend which will further insulate economic activity from the intervention of state courts. Now I'm not advocating anything as grandiose or 'recherche' as Peter Joseph and the Zeitgeist Movement. In fact I'm very apprehensive about 'public intellectuals' wielding power. Rather I would say that AI processes, for lack of a better term, will spontaneously emerge and which like language have no author. Furthermore these authorless AI processes intended merely as a navigational aid in the case of GPS, nevertheless have far reaching consequences which tend toward the elimination of the state and of political power. It is along this dimension that I am optimistic about AI - and whether intended or not - being able to shape and deliver a libertarian society.ReplyDelete
Victor: If I understood that correctly, I think you should drop the term AI and replace it with 'technology'. It seems to me that you are saying is that technology may advance to the point where it makes government superfluous. Which is something that is entirely possible imo. But appealing to an implementation detail like 'parallel AI' does not make sense and -imo- just confuses the issue. (Seems like an appeal to 'magic' to me)Delete
"...technology may advance to the point where it makes government superfluous. Which is something that is entirely possible imo."Delete
Of course it is possible. But we see that it is also used as a tool of repression - as has been true of this double-edged sword of technology for eternity.
"How many divisions does technology have?"
To make government (as we define the term today) superfluous will not happen due to technology but will come only when people decide it is superfluous and act accordingly.
A good start would be to quit cheering and instead start booing when the F-16s fly overhead before a football game. In other words, we have a long way to go.
BM: I think that there is a better than 50% chance that technology makes government superfluous, but I have not said that I (or anybody) might like the result!Delete
I am -at times- rather black pilled on the (ultimate) future of humanity. And technology is a pretty big part of that.
At other times I have a little hope...
Seem to have missed this one, but for the record:ReplyDelete
"Regarding decentralization, libertarians in the west have great news on this front: [...] the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands.."
Three cheers if it weren't for Geert Wilders' party being an anti-Islam party first and foremost, and a staged/controlled one at that. Sorry, but no great decentralization news from Holland, sad to say.