Paul VanderKlay is continuing to pursue some understanding of Michael Malice, anarchism and libertarianism. Based on an extensive comment from Ginger Bill, PVK decided to dedicate a conversation with Bill in order to perhaps gain some further clarity on these topics.
You will recall from my earlier post on a discussion between Jordan Peterson and Malice that I felt Malice did a poor job of explaining the inside-baseball language that libertarians throw around among and between each other – for example, say the word “anarchism” to most rational people and they will think “riots.” This only made the topic confusing for Peterson; I lay the blame for this on Malice.
Further, neither Peterson nor Malice raised the point of natural law – although the dialogue presented several opportunities. Libertarianism without natural law as a foundation is a dead letter.
Returning to the PVK-Ginger Bill discussion, I found it a helpful compliment to the Peterson-Malice discussion, as Bill better explained some of the inside language. What follows are my several comments posted at PVK’s page, with some minor editing and additional clarification thrown in:
I am ten minutes in, and already can write a dozen comments. I assure you, I understand anarcho-capitalism, Murray Rothbard, natural law, the Mises Institute, as well as Ginger Bill....
Ginger Bill may be right in everything he is saying about Malice (ten minutes in). The problem is this. Those of us in the know (of the Rothbardian lingo) understand all of this inside baseball talk. Why should we expect that Peterson (or PVK) does? Use the word anarchy, and what comes to mind in 98% of the population (and keep the Greek to yourself)?
Ginger Bill explained the Greek etymology – without a governmental (state) leader. But almost no one thinks this when they think of the word “anarchy.”
Anarchy: Malice thinks individualism and voluntary cooperation; most of the world thinks riots - and Malice has to know this. Explaining this distinction would have helped the Malice-Peterson conversation. Instead, Malice just talked as if he was speaking to Tom Woods. We only have Malice to blame for this confusion.
Further (and not from this discussion...as I am only ten minutes in and it might come up later), Malice never clarifies anything about favoring hierarchies of any sort in a two-plus hour conversation with Peterson. Whose fault is that? Peterson's? PVK's? No....
Some discussion of intermediating institutions would have been helpful, otherwise you end up with left-anarchism – which ends in communism.
Use the words anarchy, no state, no government, etc., etc., etc., in any crowd other than a Mises Institute event and you will draw confusion unless you clearly define these terms. Malice did not; he, therefore, wasted a great opportunity.
Let’s just say that a Jordan Peterson video gets plenty of views. Also, the connection of anarchism (in the libertarian context) to the work Peterson is doing is necessary.
Now 25 minutes in....
PVK: "What drew this [libertarian] community to Peterson?"
I can give a longer answer, but in shorthand...NATURAL LAW! It is where this conversation will end, if it is to have any value.
Of course, not all libertarians are fans of natural law. While generalizations are just that, I will make one: those same libertarians are the ones who think Peterson is dangerous and who praise the libertine turnings of society. They may or may not know this, but these libertarians are doing the work of Antonio Gramsci.
Talk to Lew Rockwell, the founder of the Mises Institute, who worked with Ludwig von Mises and also was a very close friend of Murray Rothbard, before Rothbard passed.
I and others have suggested that PVK talk with Tom Woods and others who can integrate and better explain anarchism, libertarianism and natural law. I mentioned Lew this time, as the topic of the Mises Institute was raised by Ginger Bill.
Goodness gracious, Paul. The anticipation is overwhelming!
I and others have been waiting a long time for Paul to give birth to this natural law baby – going to the place he must if his conversation (including others like Peterson and Pageau) is going to reach its full potential. I can only hope that the contractions are now very painful and within a minute or two of each other.
PVK: Anarchism as a strategy vs. anarchism as a basis of morality
It is neither, which I go on to explain:
PVK asked an important question. Ginger Bill’s response focused on a sliver of the topic, and not the main issue / differentiation. A few words of background…
In this comment, I decide to offer some basic building blocks – work that would have been helpful, I believe, had Malice done this in the conversation with Peterson.
Anarchism, in the Malice understanding, is downstream from libertarianism, which is based on the non-aggression principle. Aggression is described as the initiation of physical force against person or property.
Anarchism merely extends this prohibition to state actors: if it is immoral for me to travel to Afghanistan to murder someone who was no threat to me (it is), wearing a state-issued uniform does not somehow transform this into “moral.” If it is immoral for me to put a gun to my neighbor’s head and tell him he must turn over 30% of his income to me (it is), wearing a state-issued IRS badge does not somehow make this act moral.
Which brings me back to Paul’s question: the non-aggression principle does not offer a complete moral system; it only addresses the political question: when is physical force justified? It is only justified in defense of person and property. It is certainly not a complete basis of morality.
Several prominent libertarians make this mistake – trying to build answers to all moral questions based on nothing but the non-aggression principle. It makes a mockery of the beauty and simplicity of the NAP, and it drives many people away from it.
It is also not a strategy – because without a broader underlying ethic, it can only lead to one place – the same place that post-modernism and woke-ism leads.
Which is why Peterson said that Malice sounds like a post-modernist.
The necessary broader underlying ethic is natural law. Otherwise, what could be more libertarian than a man insisting he be treated as a woman, and vice versa – and changing his/her mind every day if he-she chooses? Or adult-child sex, or shooting a child for stealing an apple?
Nothing, that’s what.
Elsewhere, Malice has said, and I paraphrase: libertarianism is a movement based on individualism. It most certainly is not. It speaks only to when the use of physical force is justified (either through self-defense or some form of formal punishment). I can be a very pure libertarian and live in a commune – as long as all members of the commune have voluntarily chosen this life (and the word voluntary opens up another discussion, too much for a comment here).
To use force to get me out of the commune of my choosing is most certainly a violation of the non-aggression principle.
PVK captures this entire point well, when he states: Jesus’s non-violence / non-coercion is nested in the capacity of the ultimate coercion of the Creator God.
Something or someone must be at the top of the hierarchy. The only question: what value drives the ordering. Further, the best safeguard is that the someone or something at the top of the hierarchy is outside of the reach of man. The Creator God is one such entity. Another is…
Natural law, PVK, natural law…. One can view this as flowing from the Creator God, or solely as deducible from Aristotelian-Thomistic logic (albeit, natural law only came to fruition in the Christian West, and ultimately requires Christian thought to fully develop it).
But all of this only further develops the reason why Malice and Peterson (and PVK) were talking past each other. Malice’s anarchism absent natural law (at least that’s how he presented it in the discussion) will lead to the destructive post-modernism and woke-ism that Peterson laments. Full stop.
And to my last comment – clarifying terms that have been misused throughout this series of conversations – and, again, I don’t blame the non-libertarians in this dialogue:
Finally… The word “coercion” is problematic and confusing in the context of such discussions, as is its counterpart, “voluntary.”
These two words have been forced in this conversation to attempt do that which they cannot do….
If a person wishes to live peacefully in a social setting, he must conform to the customs, traditions, norms, and politics of that setting. He is “coerced” into doing so, and it may not be totally voluntary. In other words, while he might appreciate much of the custom of the situation, he might just accept (or be resigned to) certain other aspects. Is this voluntary? Is it coercive?
Libertarianism (or anarchism in the Malice context) in theory is decentralization in practice. Think one-world government on the one hand, and Lichtenstein or Andorra on the other. Do polities of 300 million (the US) or 1.5 billion (China), or 7 billion (the world) offer sufficient choice for those living within these. Of course not.
California isn’t Wyoming, and Shasta County isn’t San Francisco (PVK knows what I am getting at). Why must individuals living in these various places be governed the same way? Why must Redding accept lifestyle customs associated with San Francisco? There is no reason; when God created the heavens and the earth, he didn’t place these borders in stone. The State of Jefferson makes more sense if one is after a peaceful society than does the state of California (or Oregon, or Washington).
Does this mean everyone in Redding must hold identical views? No. But the point is decentralization and subsidiarity: more choice, with decisions made at the lowest possible level.
There is no purely voluntary possibility, a life free from all coercion – not if one wishes to live among other people. Just as there is no liberty possible without responsibility. The best we can hope for is evermore choice.
I hope VanderKlay continues down this path. I have heard, but cannot confirm, that Peterson has a dialogue upcoming with Robert Murphy – Peterson had recently asked for recommendations to speak with an Austrian economist.
If this is true, Murphy is a good choice. I hope the dialogue captures the tie to and necessity of natural law.