Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Liberty’s Obstacle

The greatest obstacle to the spread of the philosophy of freedom described in Against the State is the ideology of the left.  The left wants to destroy the traditional institutions of civil society, especially the family.  It wants to wipe out all differences between people and make us “equal” slaves of the all-powerful state.

This is the opening quote in Lew Rockwell’s book, Against the Left: A Rothbardian Libertarianism.  In just short of 150 pages, Rockwell delivers a thorough critique of the damage done by the left to the cause of liberty due to the left’s purposeful destruction of intermediating institutions that provided space for liberty to flourish.

Rockwell covers the assault on the family, immigration, and left-libertarianism, among other topics.  I will review each of these over the course of a couple of posts, but first I will begin with the preface by Hans-Hermann Hoppe:

Every person, including identical twins, is unique, different from and unequal to all other persons.

It is this reality that the left fights, a “relentless revolt against human nature,” according to Hoppe; therefore, it is a fight that the left will ultimately lose – albeit after taking many of us down with them.

Hoppe offers a historical perspective – how we came to this.  All ideological movements – to include the classical liberals – have slowly (or rapidly) drifted to the left.  Incomes would be equalized, then opportunity.  Unfortunately for the left, the workers of the (developed) western world didn’t unite.  Even worse, the blue-collar base that they counted on slowly declined in proportion to the population.

Hoppe makes an interesting connection here – an insight, at least to me: to make up for the decline in the blue-collar base, the left greatly expanded the “tax-funded ‘public sector’ workers, i.e. of State-dependents, and in particular of workers in the so-called ‘social services’ industry.”  Further, they would take over the entire system of public education – from universities down to elementary schools.

They would not only make peace with the imperial state, they would utilize empire to bring their leftist ideology to the world – a welfare state at home and imperialism abroad.  This combination would make for a healthy environment for free immigration, with all of its negative consequences for liberty (not for the liberty of the immigrants, of course, but the liberty of those previously in the polity).

Through such a policy, “increasing social fragmentation would result.”

…affiliations to one’s own nation, ethnicity, religion, town, community, or family, would be systematically weakened…

Thus leaving only the state to bind society.

Rockwell in his introduction identifies the thinness of libertarianism: “If we get rid of the State – and that is a big if – we have accomplished our goal as libertarians.”

There is no libertarian goal to mold people to some ideology; it does not view the family as an enemy – in fact, it finds in the family the foundation for a decent society.  “Unfortunately, a number of so-called libertarians ignore these essential points.”

Left-libertarians want to combine libertarianism with some version of egalitarianism – ignoring the reality identified by Hoppe: every person is unique.  Therefore, not every person will conform to your definition of liberty.

Rockwell, through this book, confronts some of the main issues in this ideological battle, closing with a chapter directly confronting the “left-libertarian imposters who want to take libertarianism away from us.”

Through an additional post or two, I will offer some further highlights from the book.  In the meantime, I return to a thought from the opening quote:

The left wants to destroy the traditional institutions of civil society, especially the family.

Rockwell’s book is entitled “Against the Left,” hence against the destruction of such institutions.  In fact, such institutions are necessary if one is after liberty.  Such institutions do not fit neatly via application of the thinnest of thin libertarianism (which, after all, offers comment only on the appropriate use of violence), yet it is precisely such institutions that make liberty possible; it is precisely such institutions that answer many of the questions left unanswerable via a strict application of the non-aggression principle.

We find defense of such institutions in the writing of Rothbard and Hoppe, for example.  Further such defense will be offered here by Rockwell.


  1. "Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing."--Robert Conquest's 2nd Law of Politics

    Any organization which does not consciously and deliberately adhere to their right-wing beliefs, philosophies, and actions will automatically drift leftward. This means that a concerted effort is required to maintain the standards set down earlier by those who started and built the organization. This will be extremely difficult to hold to, since new people are always being brought in who have different ideas about what is the 'acceptable standard'. Inevitably, right-wing organizations either remain very small, close-knit, and closely controlled or they drift leftward, perhaps slowly at first, then all at once. Kind of like going bankrupt.

    Left-wing organizations drift ever further to the extreme because there is always someone who is willing to push the envelope on what is acceptable. Eventually, though, leftism comes up against the rock-hard limits of reality and the organization collapses, either through attrition, violent revolution, or financial bankruptcy, probably some combination of all three, and the cycle starts all over again.

    History has shown repeatedly that we never learn.

  2. In his book, 'The Problem of Pain', C.S. Lewis has this to say.

    " is the high-minded unbeliever, desperately trying in the teeth of repeated disillusions to retain his 'faith in human nature', who is really sad."(ch. 4, Human Wickedness.)

    The Left, which overwhelmingly has a high-minded belief in the 'goodness' of human nature, is constantly trying to build a utopian society based on this faith and is always stymied in it. Inevitably, those efforts end in frustration and disillusionment because human nature cannot be made 'good'. Consequently, according to Lewis, those who participate in such efforts are perpetually sad. I find this to be true.

    Disillusionment with one's 'disillusions', though, isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can become the doorway to liberty, provided that those disillusions are replaced with something better.

  3. I'm increasingly convinced that the basic intellectual problem with the Left (not that there's much intellect left in them these days, but it explains how they got here) is a failure to grasp the nature of power as expounded by Jouvenel. They were so obsessed with "freedom from reality" that they were perfectly willing to ignore the nature of the monster they were feeding.

    I wish I had come across this notion of "power vs. civil society" earlier. Growing up, all I got was the standard trope about how the specific arrangements of power changed over time. This is the Progressive mindset that grips such a large slice of the population, especially the ones with a lot of formal "education".

    Small wonder that they see true liberty as dangerous, as they believe the State to be the grantor and guarantor of liberty. To them, anyone who sees the State as a violent interloper - as opposed to the very fabric of society - is part of a lunatic fringe. Don't they know that we wouldn't HAVE any "freedoms" like Medicare and food stamps if it weren't for the gubmint?

  4. "Rockwell covers the assault on the family, immigration, and left-libertarianism..."

    And yet we're all supposed to rally behind Jacob Hornberger for the Libertarian Party nomination for President, even though he is an open borders advocate, started out on the left and still has major leftist leanings, and as far as I can tell has no family of his own.

    Color me skeptical. I'll probably join the LP and vote for him, but mostly because the other candidates are worse and I want to support the Misesian revolution within the LP of which he is a part. I'd rather have a Hornberger than a Gary Johnson (or a Trump for that matter).

    I do like his position on abortion. I commend him to the stars for, despite being a lefty, taking a pro-life stance as his Catholic faith should demand. I think it is the right one within the framework of the Constitution and the powers of the Presidency. That position is that it should not be a federal issue, but a state's issue.

    So why can't he have that position on immigration? It's okay to let the states decide whether or not they will allow the murdering of the innocent unborn, but punishing adults who knowingly violate border laws has to stop now and Union-wide!!!

    There's my soapbox for the day. Sorry to 'shoehorn Hornberger' into this discussion, but I was recently pleasantly surprised (though I should not have been) by finding someone in our libertarian conservative orbit who has taken a strong stance against Hornberger, and she's made me reevaluate somewhat my view of him. You should check out Dissident Mama's post "Open Borders Bumper".

    "If this is what Hornberger’s selling as “liberty,” I want absolutely no part of it. Zilch. Zero. Nihil. Or maybe I should say, “Nada.”" - Dissident Mama

    She's saying this about a guy endorsed by Tom Woods, Scott Horton, Dave Smith, and Ron Paul.

    1. I read her piece and agree.

      I would say Hornberger is frustrating, but I have grown past such concerns long ago. He is so wonderfully good on everything else, so I think to myself "why would I allow one single disagreement to dissuade me from supporting him?" Defining support however you might like, of course.

      I guess because I have a strong opinion of where that path leads - the very rapid and permanent destruction of any hope for a future of some sense of liberty and peace.

      They are now describing Venezuela as the source for the next big refugee crisis. No doubt by design. My guess is they won't be journeying south.

    2. I think my strategy is the following:

      1) Vote for Hornberger in the libertarian primary to help the Mises caucus bring some semblance of actual libertarian principle to the party Rothbard helped found.

      2) Vote for whoever wins libertarian primary (excepting of course ridiculous candidates like Vermin Supreme) in the national election.

      Outcome #1: Trump wins, despite my lack of support. Life goes on as it has the past 4 years.

      Outcome #2: Trump loses, and Warren wins (deep state's preferred Democratic candidate), then we may see some real support fall behind secession and independence from the USSA.

      Outcome #3: Let's face it, no way Hornberger wins.

      I'm not voting for Trump, because he has failed to end any wars in the Middle East, he's complicit in the Saudi war on Yemen, he's the puppet of the Israel lobby, his economic policies will worsen any economic crisis in the near future, he routinely can be expected to sign all the anti-liberty budgets and policies that come across his desk, and he's talking about turning Mexico into a war zone with US troops helping the Mexican government fight the drug cartels (nothing is so sure to send millions more migrants into Texas).

      There are certainly things I can appreciate about Trump, as I've said before, but I won't support him for another go round. He's certainly better than any of the Democratic candidates (including Tulsi), but I no longer see the merit in least bad alternatives which always seem to defuse and deflate the growing liberty and independence movements (think Reagan and Nixon).

      The Republican party was the original party of Progressives. It's the Party of Lincoln and of Reconstruction. It took Wilson, FDR and WWII to turn it into the party of relative sanity. As a Southerner and a libertarian, I have no special loyalty to it.

    3. It is unclear to me why this discussion turned from a review of Rockwell's book critiquing the Left into a political melee of Hornberger's faults, but since we are here...

      I desire to be free to move anywhere in the world and live there as I please. I believe that the right to relocate is an inherent right. Governments cannot 'give' people the right to move, they can only legislate against it.

      As a proponent of the Golden Rule, if I wish to be free to move, I also must accord everyone else that freedom. To do otherwise would be contradictory.

      That does not mean that I can move anywhere and settle down against the wishes and rights of the people who are already there. I have no right to 'take' someone's property to enrich myself, either by force or fraud, but must work voluntarily and mutually with the local population to gain benefits. Neither does anyone else have the 'right' to move to my location and force me to give him what he wants.

      All property is owned, either privately or publicly. If private, the owner(s) are easily recognized. If public, the owners are usually expressed in vague terms like "the people." Every property has a boundary, either implicit or explicit which can be respected or violated.

      At its core, the immigrant issue is a discussion of property rights. Should property owners have the right to tell immigrants, "No"? Absolutely! Yet, at the same time, when property ownership is considered a "public trust" or government controlled, then it becomes a matter of politics--those who scream the loudest call the shots, regardless as to who gets hurt.

      Totally free and voluntary individual movement (immigration/emigration) can and should be allowed, but only as long as property boundaries, private or public, are recognized and inviolate. We are not at that point today.

      Immigrants may violate our property boundaries, but the real guilt in this issue is with those who have already done so, i.e., those who rule us politically in the name of "The People." It is not so much immigration, per se, that is the problem, but the idea that we can gain (and hold onto) property through political means. All others be damned. To some degree, all of us are guilty. "We have met the enemy", Pogo the Possum said, "and he is us."

      Unfortunately, this often leads to the stirring up of hatred and resentment on the part of some people against others. This happens worldwide, whenever and wherever property rights are perceived as being violated. The divisions we see in America are not exclusive to America.

      This attitude goes against the teachings of Christ, Who commands us to "love the stranger", even as we are loved, to treat them as fellow members of the family who are made in God's image. We must love all others, no matter who they are, even though our property rights are clearly being trampled on. At the same time, we must work to ensure that "their" right to be free is just as important as our own. Until all are equally at liberty, none of us are.

    4. Roger

      “I believe that the right to relocate is an inherent right.”

      On what basis? You have no right to relocate at all. You certainly have no right to relocate to my property, nor to a community that will not have you.

      “That does not mean that I can move anywhere and settle down against the wishes and rights of the people who are already there.”

      That’s my point: you do not have a right to relocate. If you had such a right to relocate, you could not at the same time write this sentence.

      “At its core, the immigrant issue is a discussion of property rights.”

      Certainly, property rights alone are sufficient to make clear that no one has a right to immigrate. Property owners have a right to manage and control who does or does not have access to their property.

      But what of protecting and conserving custom and tradition – out of respect of both ancestors and descendants. It is a blind spot for libertarians, but not a blind spot for human nature.

      “Totally free and voluntary individual movement (immigration/emigration) can and should be allowed, but only as long as property boundaries, private or public, are recognized and inviolate.”

      There is an insurmountable contradiction in this sentence. If property boundaries are inviolate, no one can ever have totally free and voluntary movement. It takes two to tango – the property owner and the migrant: either can kill the deal.

      “This attitude goes against the teachings of Christ, Who commands us to "love the stranger", even as we are loved, to treat them as fellow members of the family who are made in God's image.”

      No doubt, but it is to be an act voluntarily and freely chosen, not forced upon us. There is no virtue or salvation if it comes via government edict, nor in advocating government force.

    5. Bionic, thank you for responding.

      People move and relocate all the time. I have done so twice in my life. If they and I do not have the “right” to move, then what do we have? An entitlement? Privilege? Grant? Obligation? Why am I entitled? Who is issuing the privilege or grant? To who am I obligated? Common sense would dictate that none of these other options is valid. We are, after all, free people or at least like to think we are.

      Moving is made up of three parts—the decision to make a move, the preparation for it, and the commencement of it. In rare cases (emergencies, war zones, criminal evasion), preparation may not play a part. No one can argue that I do not have a right to make a decision to move. It is likewise my right, in my own interests, to make preparations for that move. Criminals and slaves can have their preparations broken up and foiled, free people cannot. These two aspects, decision and preparation, are rights which cannot be disputed.

      The third, commencement, of necessity requires the cooperation of other people and it entails the crossing of boundary lines, some explicit, some implied. For instance, when my wife and I moved from Florida to Montana, we had to use state-owned roads and cross state lines, eat at privately owned restaurants, refuel at privately owned stations, sleep in privately owned hotels, etc., until we arrived at our destination, which eventually ended at a privately owned rental residence. All of these instances were achieved via voluntary contract, again either explicit or implied. I was willing to pay the price, the other parties were glad to “sell” to me. Everyone acted freely. No action was forced.

      Property rights do surpass movement rights. The right of the property owner is inviolate of and overrules the right of the prospective settler. I concur that I do not have a right to relocate to your property nor to a community that does not want me, but it does not follow that I have no right to make an attempt to do so. My attempt may end in failure, but I still have the freedom to try. However, even if I cannot settle on your property nor in your community, I still might be able, through voluntary contract, to move to a property near you or a town a few miles away. This is my right, so long as I can find someone, perhaps your neighbor, who is willing to allow my presence. This is not contradictory. My statement about ‘totally free and voluntary individual movement’ should have been seen in this light, but it seems that I phrased it badly. My apology.

      Do we have a right to marry? To own a firearm? To gainful employment? The answer to all these must be a resounding, “Yes”, but they, like moving, come with conditions. I cannot marry a woman if I am already married to another one. I cannot own a gun and use it in an unprovoked way against my neighbor. I cannot work at my job without performing the work satisfactorily. I cannot move if no one will allow access. In fact, it can be said that all of life is structured this way. For every opportunity there is an impediment. For every right, there is a condition.

    6. “Certainly, property rights alone are sufficient to make clear that no one has a right to immigrate. Property owners have a right to manage and control who does or does not have access to their property.”--BM

      In America today, a huge amount of the property is “owned” publicly, which really means that it belongs to no one. Nevertheless, “we, the people” own it and as such ‘have a right to manage and control who does or does not have access to their property.’ Since this “right” is administered at government levels, it is safe to say that whoever controls the government also has the “right” to manage and control this access. While it may be argued that ‘no one has a right to immigrate’, it is undeniable that they do have permission from the “property owners” to do so. The argument against immigration is not so much against the individuals who are taking advantage of the system as it is against the system itself and the only recourse is to work to change it to better reflect your preferences.

      “No doubt, but it [loving the stranger] is to be an act voluntarily and freely chosen, not forced upon us. There is no virtue or salvation if it comes via government edict, nor in advocating government force.”--BM

      This is absolutely correct, but I didn’t say that there is any virtue or salvation in obeying government edict nor did I advocate government force. In fact, I even admitted that “property rights are clearly being trampled on.” However, even though force might be brought to bear on us, we are still obliged to follow a higher command to “Love one another.” “If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other to him as well.” “Do not repay evil for evil, but rather good for evil.” I know too many Christians (including some close to me), who take their eyes off the command and focus on the target in an unloving manner.

      Finally, there is a saying along these lines that to expect the government to solve a problem which the government created in the first place is lunacy. It is insane. It is not realistic. Yet, it is all that many of us can see. We need a better solution. I commend you for your efforts in searching for it.

    7. Roger,

      My apologies for the Hornberger derail, but look at this great conversation you and Bionic are having as a result!

      I think I agree with both of you, because I think both of you are essentially saying this: immigration would not be a problem in a truly libertarian society where property rights and boundaries are inviolable.

      In this environment, human movement would be 1) consensual movement across owned property (roads, railways, waterways, land, etc.), 2) movement across unowned property (wild land, water), or 3) trespass, where culture and tradition, with reference to the NAP, would dictate punishment or restitution.

      The problem is of course that we don't live in this condition. Instead we live under a democratic republic and all our rights and property are subject to the will of centralized majority votes. Because of this, it matters what our fellow countrymen think and who comes into the country to participate.

      The real question is how do we reconcile our desire to preserve and restore our communities of liberty, which will require immigration restrictions, with our Christian duties to welcome strangers and love our fellow man as ourselves? Do we have to let someone into our home who can be reasonably predicted based on historical evidence to change the rules of the household?

      I think we can love our neighbors without ruining our own home. I think in order to help others in a sustainable and responsible way, you must first help yourself. And I think it is no virtue to help someone by placing the burden on others who had no part in the decision to help.

    8. Roger

      “If they and I do not have the “right” to move, then what do we have?”

      What “right” do you have to move where the property owner will not have you? Of course, a government can force the property owner to have you – if you want to call that a “right.”

      Speaking from a strictly libertarian standpoint: You have a right to leave somewhere (with some exceptions voluntarily taken); you have no right to move to somewhere; you can only do so if a property owner allows you to do so. This could mean: selling you a house, renting you a condo, allowing you into the community, etc. What “right” can you claim when property owners won’t allow you onto their property?

      “The third, commencement, of necessity requires the cooperation of other people and it entails the crossing of boundary lines, some explicit, some implied.”

      This is my point, which was already stated – and we seem to be going in circles: if the cooperation of others is required (like my cooperation to allow you to cross my boundary line), tell me: how does this mean that you have a “right” to move? What happens if I exercise my right to not cooperate (which I do have when it comes to my property)? Do you have a right to shoot me?

      “Property rights do surpass movement rights. The right of the property owner is inviolate of and overrules the right of the prospective settler.”

      You keep making my point better than I have. If the property owner’s rights surpass yours, tell me: how do you have a “right” to move? What if the property owner says no? Will you shoot him and claim it was your right to shoot him?

      “…it does not follow that I have no right to make an attempt to do so.”

      You are changing the subject. You are now claiming a different right: the right to “attempt” as opposed to the right to “do.”

      “This is my right, so long as I can find someone, perhaps your neighbor, who is willing to allow my presence.”

      But what if you don’t? Do you have the right to shoot him in order to defend your right to move?

      Do we have a right to marry? To own a firearm? To gainful employment? The answer to all these must be a resounding, “Yes”,

      You are kidding, aren’t you? What if no woman will have you? A shotgun wedding, with you holding the shotgun? What if no employer will have you? The firearm one is slightly more complicated, so I won’t get into a sidetrack.

      I have a right to eat, to a home, to a Ferrari? When does it end?

      As to your comments about the government, public property, etc., this is the crux of the issue. There is no answer to this issue of immigration as long as the government is in control of the topic.

      But one thing is certain: in a case where all property is privately owned, no one would have a “right” to move anywhere without the consent of the property owner. All access to and through borders (boundaries, property, whatever term you want) would be managed, not open.

    9. ATL, no apologies necessary, but recognized. Thank you for your comment. It has been helpful. As far as the conversation between Bionic and myself, I must say I am thoroughly enjoying it and I hope the feeling is mutual.

      Bionic, I think that we are comparing apples to oranges. I think that it may be because you are seeing this issue from a theoretical point of view--the way it should be (and you are dead-on correct), while I see it from the way it is on the ground right now. Or perhaps I'm mistaken about that. It wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong. If I am, forgive me.

      I have never, not once, said that I have the right to move somewhere I am not wanted. I have always asserted that property owners have control over their property and that I have to contract with them to access that property. I do not advocate the use of force nor would use it to override your right to manage your property as you see fit. This is about as plain and simple as I can make it.

      Your last paragraph is absolutely correct--in theory, that is, but we do not live there. Maybe we will someday, but for now we have to make do with reality.

      If all property was privately owned, the extent of my move would be to the end of my driveway unless the owner of the road allowed me access to his property. Even then, I would have to gain permission once I came to another road owned by a different party. Etc., ad infinitum. Is this not correct? But the fact is that, in essence I do own my share of the road at the end of my driveway and all other publicly owned roads in this country. As an "owner", I can simply put my truck in gear and drive on my "property" without asking anyone. As long as I obey the "rules of the road", I am free to go wherever I wish. If I wanted to and could afford it (I don't and I can't), I could simply drive and drive forever on public roadways, always moving from one location to another freely, without anyone telling me that I had to stop. To my way of thinking, this sounds awfully darn close to a right. In reality, that is, even if it doesn't square with libertarian theory.

      As far as I know (I could be wrong), we only have two absolute rights--the right to be left alone and the right to defend ourselves, both of which include our property. Every other right is conditional and, in that sense, we have to sort out where our rights end and our responsibilities to our fellow man begin.

      !Salud, mi amigo! Que le vaya bien!

    10. Roger, I was just about to add a further comment when I saw your comment. My further comment was along these lines: I am talking theory, you are talking today's practice (which is the case, it turns out); alternatively, maybe we are just talking past each other - you are saying that you are free to move IF someone will have you, I am saying you are not free to move UNLESS someone will have you. These two amount to the same thing, I think.

      In any case, yes I was talking libertarian theory applied because this is the context of Rockwell's book.

      Beyond this, we are close enough on your other comments - the clarification of our different approaches cleans up much of the back and forth, although it is always good to explore and compare theory to reality!

      I like the close in Spanish within the context of this discussion - you are going to trigger many closed border types!


    11. Cool! Let's 'bury the hatchet' and move on. Or shouldn't I say that either?

    12. "Put a fork in it," I think is more appropriate!

    13. Bionic, one more note. It struck me recently that this blog is a very apt analogy of what we have been discussing.

      It is private property. You own it. You control it. There are boundaries. It is unquestionably yours and you manage it according to your preferences.

      The Internet is the road system on which anyone with a connection can "move" to a new destination. Freedom of travel world-wide is available to anyone as long as the rules are adhered to.

      When anyone visits your blog (property, community), they can observe it in as much detail as desired, strolling around the landscape and taking in the sights, so to speak. They can leave and return freely without restriction. You allow them this much. Signing up for the "newsletter" (following) is optional. Some decide they like the place and put in a formal request for "guest residency" (leave a comment).

      It is at this point where you are authorized to "review the applications", determine who gets to "stay", who cannot, and for how long. Not only that, but you retain the authority to "warn misfits and malefactors" to correct their behavior under pain of banishment AND to throw them out if necessary. Entry might be refused at the "guardhouse" (boundary). All completely at your discretion. Forced entry is simply not allowed.

      The right to move and the right to property. In a nutshell.

  5. I don't know where this video should go, but the discussion at about 44:00 parallels much that BM has been writing about.

    I am not a big Puritan fan, but the ideas discussed are great.

    1. Good clip. But I couldn't help but think throughout: what is Shapiro really thinking during all this talk of Jesus, Christianity, and the New Testament?

      Poor guy would lose his entire audience if we found out the answer to this question.

    2. In an interview with John MacArthur, Ben said he thinks the New Testament is bunk basically.