Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Meze or mezze is a selection of small dishes served as appetizers in parts of the Middle East, the Balkans, Greece, and North Africa.

Call it the realm of the former Ottoman Empire.  I have been chewing on a few topics for several days.  Each of these could, perhaps, be turned into a complete meal but I am not in a position to devote the proper attention to each.  So, for now, I will just serve each as a small dish.  It is also equally likely, as is usually the case, that the mezze platter will be sufficient for the entire meal.

Diversity is Our Strength

If there is an overriding theme to the societal disaster that defines the current times, it is this slogan.  More specifically, it is the context in which this slogan is used.  Certainly, diversity can be a strength if ends are held in common; certainly, diversity is a strength if the rules of the game (the means) are respected. 

Can you imagine any social institution being successful if the individuals who make up such an entity are working toward different ends?  We see this in the least effective such entities; in the successful ones, we see that all individuals are working toward a similar end, purpose, objective.

Can you imagine any social institution being successful if the individuals who make up such an entity are all playing by different rules?  Each one defining how his role is governed, independent of the governance of the entity as a whole?

Further, the ends and means are completely interrelated: It isn’t that the ends justify the means; it is that the ends define the means.  Within such a framework, diversity is a strength: diverse skills, temperaments, capabilities, ideas – all moving toward a common end, all playing within a common framework of means.

Diversity is not a strength when the subject population does not hold to common ends and does not agree to play by common rules (the means).  In such a case, diversity is hell.  If the diversity of hell is where you look for your strength, feel free to welcome diversity as it is celebrated by the broader culture.

Everything is a Lie

Everything.  Out of the mouths of politicians, news reporters, journalists, thought leaders in sports and entertainment.  Well, not everything.  On the rare occasion we hear some truth from any of these, they are shut down and ostracized. 

Everything we are taught about history is a lie.  Not a little lie, like George-Washington-cut-down-the-cherry-tree lie; big lies – lies that have resulted in the deaths of millions and the cost of trillions.  The dead can be considered the trophies in the game rooms of the liars and the sacrifices of a worshipful population; the cost is going into the pockets of the same liars.   Whenever someone sticks his head up and says “wait, that isn’t true,” he is labeled a conspiracy theorist – before being shut down and ostracized.

Do you want to succeed by the standards of this world?  Be a champion of the biggest lie.  Do you want to survive?  Don’t openly challenge any of the lies. 

Do you want to do righteous work?  Speak truthfully.

The Meaning Crisis

To really feel the joy in life
You must suffer through the pain

-          Illumination Theory, Dream Theater

This idea of a meaning crisis has gained increased popular traction recently.  What is the meaning crisis?  A very complicated question.  It is easier to describe it by what is lacking in Western society than what it actually is, I suppose.  On one level, it can be captured by noting the superficiality of the material life – a life consumed with getting more stuff.  There is no depth in this life, no relationships, no connections of value, no reason to cherish the joy in life – because “more stuff” doesn’t bring joy to life.

But as I think about it, at its most fundamental level, it strikes me that the things that give life meaning are those things for which one is willing to die or kill.  Of course, what one is willing to die or kill for matters – a lot. 

Jeff Deist raised just such points (and quite a backlash) when he spoke at Mises University two years ago:

In closing, I’ll mention an email exchange I had recently with the blogger Bionic Mosquito. If you’re not reading Bionic Mosquito, you should be!

Well, yeah.  That’s true.  But you are already here…so….

I asked him the same hypothetical question I have for you: what would you fight for? The answer to this question tells us a lot about what libertarians ought to care about.

By this I mean what would you physically fight for, where doing so could mean serious injury or death. Or arrest and imprisonment, or the loss of your home, your money, and your possessions.

His answer? 

In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.

What in the West is worth fighting for?  Who in the West is willing to do the fighting? 

They shoot without shame
In the name of a piece of dirt
For a change of accent
Or the colour of your shirt

-          Territories, Rush

There are some answers.  There are those in the West willing to go overseas and kill people who have never been a danger to anyone in the West; there are those in the West who are willing to kill others because they wear the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood.

Beyond these?  Virtually nothing (other than family for some of us).  And given that these are the two best examples I can think of, it suggests something about the cultural degradation of the West.  Western society is willing to kill and die for evil purposes.

And this is, for the moment, the best description I can give of why there is a meaning crisis.  Well, this and having “diversity is our strength” shoved down our throats.  Oh, and knowing that everything told to us is a lie.

The Mess of Romans 13

Other than the end times interpretation by followers of the Scofield Bible, there is probably no misinterpretation of the Bible that has caused more harm than the “obey-the-government-at-all-times” interpretation of Romans 13 (and these two are certainly quite related today).  I have offered that Gerard Casey has provided one of the many good evaluations of this fallacy.

Just reading and listening to the Gospels, in how many cases is it offered that the governmental authorities were defied?  Not deified as in the standard interpretation of Romans 13; defied!  Jesus would not have survived his first years had this not been the case.

I know, I am the one pushing Christianity as the necessary foundation for liberty.  But organized Christianity – almost whatever the denomination – is so compromised morally and doctrinally.  I take comfort that this situation has been seen many times before and has been overcome.

It will be overcome again.  What would you expect, given He who is in charge?

Overturning Culture

I can’t remember which one of you wrote it and I cannot find it now, but we had an exchange on Jesus overturning culture some weeks ago.  I keep writing about the value of common culture, not overthrowing the culture but allowing it to evolve naturally.  The example was given by one of you of Jesus: He sure overthrew a lot of culture!

This has been on my mind since then.  When I consider the cases where Jesus overthrew the existing culture – usually to be found in passages where He is dealing with the Pharisees or which begin “You have heard it said…” – the examples I can think of off of the top of my head are all examples of overturning culture in favor of Natural Law.  In other words, Jesus makes clear that what many refer to as Judeo-Christian as the basis for Western civilization is simply Christian.  The Judeo part of the equation destroyed the love inherent in Natural Law.

I write often about the old and good law.  This means…not just old law – as the Pharisees would see it.  “Good” law is grounded in Natural Law (and I don’t mean to imply here physical punishment for all violations of Natural Law, as I do not believe this nor is this the example Jesus gave us).

Where Jesus overturned culture – again, from my memory – He did it in the direction of Natural Law, law that recognizes the proper ends for human beings.  You don’t get much better “good” law than this.


Of the five topics here, it is the last one – if any – that I might pursue further.  In the meantime, back to the mezze:

Meze is generally accompanied by the distilled drinks rakı, arak, ouzo, Aragh Sagi, rakia, mastika, or tsipouro.

Each of these drinks is regional – specific to a place.  I always choose based on the country (or restaurant) in which I am dining.  When in Rome and all that.  But my go to?  The one in my liquor cabinet?  I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but it is the state-owned Yeni raki from Turkey.  More bite than ouzo or arak, but what do you expect from Turks.  Add a little water and a little ice….

All I can say is…pass the bastirma.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Working to Fill a Void

The summer issue of the Austro Libertarian magazine is now available.  I find the articles and essays in this magazine quite valuable, filling an important niche between the short, topical essays available at a variety of libertarian and Austrian sites and the longer, academic articles found in various libertarian and Austrian economic journals.  Further, the editors are fully understanding of the necessity to speak to the relevance of history and cultural tradition in the quest for liberty – in other words, my cup of tea!

The opening editorial offers a worthwhile examination of the purpose of the magazine within the larger framework of moving toward a society better grounded in liberty.  There certainly is a void here when it comes to what is described as the broad libertarian movement, as outside of the Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell, there are few, if any, meaningful libertarian institutions that will explore this space that incorporates culture and history into a proper understanding of liberty.

…there is an emerging realization that [libertarians] must not ignore more epochal concerns. Such concerns must not be relegated narrowly to the state, but as well to the development of the history, culture, and worldview of our time.

It is quite an interesting statement.  In my earliest meaningful steps toward understanding libertarianism and liberty, I would wonder why Murray Rothbard would involve himself so much in history, culture, and tradition – exploring these topics yet never demanding that the non-aggression principle take on the burden of carrying the weight of these topics. 

If our enemy is the state, what do any of these have to do with liberty?  My gut told me that there was some connection, but it took my own exploration to see it.  Rothbard saw this decades ago, but to many libertarians, his lessons have been lost.

A contrast is offered of what is described as a destructive tendency in libertarian circles.  On the one hand, what is generally referred to as thick libertarianism, incorporating into libertarianism the “overall struggle of Western man to be free of all psychological, moral, cultural, and familial pressure.” 

On the other hand, “the disinterest in meta-human affairs. …this tendency presents itself in those libertarians who make libertarianism the only thing worth discussing and propagating.”  The editors properly describe this second group:

They have not theoretically traded a “thin libertarianism” for an “atomistic libertarianism,” but they have indeed done so practically.

What I see in this “destructive tendency” in libertarian circles is, through the first group, the destruction of libertarianism as a meaningful or useful concept.  There is no meaning to a life sanitized of all such pressures; there is no usefulness in a philosophy that ignores all such pressures.

As destructive as this first group is to libertarianism and liberty, I find at least equally destructive the second group: instead of liberty, libertarianism is seen as the end; libertarianism can successfully support liberty regardless of the health and content of the cultural foundation underneath it.  These are fallacious – even dangerous – ideas, ideas that will lead to tyranny.

It is clear that those in the first group burden libertarianism to such an extent as to make it a useless concept; those in the second group do not understand the inherently necessary connection of culture and tradition to liberty – as libertarianism is not sufficient toward this end.

As an aside, the editors offer that despite this divergence amongst libertarians, they still find the phrase “libertarian movement” serving a purpose.  Perhaps in this issue (as I have not yet read it all) or in some future issue, the editors can expand on this point.  I have struggled with the idea of a libertarian movement (here and here), albeit never wavering on the value of libertarianism and the non-aggression principle as the proper standard for identifying acts of aggression.

Returning to the editorial, the editors see libertarianism as one puzzle piece in a more holistic and integrated framework “once referred to as ‘the humanities.’”  As such, dealing with the problems of this age of statism requires something more than a perfected political theory.  For this, the authors offer four thoughts about this libertarian movement and the magazine’s place in it:

First is the need for a Grand Narrative.  To demonstrate that such a narrative is lacking in the broader libertarian community, Rothbard noted of what he called the typical libertarian:

This typical libertarian, he wrote, “is fairly bright, and fairly well-steeped in libertarian theory. But he knows nothing and cares less about history, culture, the context of reality or world affairs.”

Hans Hoppe recently took an important step in this regard, offering The Libertarian Quest for a Grand Historical Narrative, in which he suggested that the greatest challenge for libertarians is to develop a proper alternative to the Whig theory of history: continual and unstoppable progress; that we live in the best of times and things only will get better.

Second is the concept of revolution and change: most people don’t live in the world of idealist thinkers – libertarian or otherwise.  Whatever the established order, revolutionary change almost always brings with it unimaginable death and destruction.  This should not be a surprise – after all, the established order has been overthrown – the key word being “order.”  To expect that a population will instantaneously conform to whatever new order the revolutionaries desire is a farcical idea.  Hence, chaos.

Third, political universalism: this idea of a top-down libertarianism, a one-size-fits all solution to ever expanding population – even to include all of humanity – “Betraying all consideration of historical and cultural elements…”  Of course, this flies in the face of any realistic understanding of divergent cultures, traditions and mores.

Against all this, we continue to promote and champion decentralization; not only politically, but socially and mentally as well.

Fourth, a refuge for ideas:

In our time, capitalism is seen as the enemy of all humanity, decentralization as a reflection of man’s inherent tribalistic bigotries, and a principled commitment to private property as an antiquated scourge on socially meaningful living.

Where does one turn if one doesn’t see the world in this way?  Ultimately, it is here where the editors find the work of the magazine, by speaking to…

…libertarians who, like us, recognize that there is an entire world of literary criticism, historical narrative, sociological analysis, and social philosophy in the greater Western tradition.

And recognizing – as Rothbard did – that all such disciplines are necessary if one’s search is for liberty, and not merely the purification of libertarianism.


Many libertarians today offer that freedom from all cultural and traditional norms is required for libertarianism to be fulfilled; many others find no reason to consider cultural and traditional norms at all – being outside of the thin definition of libertarianism.  Inherently, the second group leaves the playing filed open to the first.

Where does this leave those libertarians who find value – even necessity – in incorporating Western cultural and traditional norms into their worldview if liberty is the objective?  Where does it leave those who understand that it was only in the Western cultural tradition that the concepts that are foundational to liberty took root?

It is in this space where the magazine will play.

Correction / clarification: I have received an email from the editors of the magazine; I have clearly misunderstood their intent regarding the idea of an ongoing “libertarian movement.”  The note, as follows:

Thanks for the great review! The only thing is that the tone of our statement of libertarian movement was actually in the other direction. We wanted to express doubt that this phrase was actually meaningful anymore at all.