Notre-Dame Burns – a Tragic Symbol of our Civilisation?
By Duncan Whitmore
As most readers will have heard, the famed Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the most splendid examples of French gothic architecture and an icon of European religious and cultural heritage, was severely damaged by fire on Monday of this week. Such was the dominance of the building that has owned the Paris skyline for centuries before the Eiffel Tower, the sight of huge flames and thick smoke billowing out as they consumed the irreplaceable edifice was captured first-hand by much of the city’s population.
The fact that this terrible event should happen now to such a splendorous achievement of Western civilisation – and in the very city which is currently experiencing the most explicit degree of discontentment with globalising policies – is a symbol of tragic irony. This cathedral managed to survive the calamities of the French Revolution and two world wars – yet it has had to cling on to life by the very tips of its fingernails in the era of twenty-first century leftism. All of those politicians and pundits who took to Twitter to express their grief at the loss of a cultural icon – among them Macron, Merkel, Clinton, Obama, as well as the EU clowns of the Juncker/Verhofstadt variety – are the very people we can see are doing their level best to destroy the civilisation and cultural heritage that this cathedral represented. Read more
Libertarian Law and Legal Systems Part One – What is Libertarian Law?
By Duncan Whitmore
One of the more fascinating but less discussed areas of libertarian theory is how law and legal systems will operate in a libertarian society. To complete such a survey in its entirety would, no doubt, take a lifetime of study and authorship of one or several treatise-length works. We shall, therefore, be placing a very necessary limit to the scope of this survey by concentrating on where, why and how legal liability would arise in a libertarian society – in other words, our primary question will be what are the causative events that trigger legal liability in a libertarian society, and how will legal bodies develop and apply the law in accordance with libertarian principles? We will not be exploring in too much detail the further questions of legal responses to liability such as punishment, retribution, restitution and so on, nor will we be looking into the question of how competing police and civil or criminal court systems might operate (except, as we shall see below, to contrast them to state-based legislative law-making systems). Even though the treatment of the topic of liability alone will still contain many omissions and areas requiring expansion with more detail, we hope to lay the foundations of how libertarian law might operate.
This first part of this five-part series will examine what law is from a libertarian perspective, how different areas of the law can be categorised, and how legal principles will arise in a libertarian society. Part two will investigate how libertarian legal systems will recognise self-ownership and the original appropriation of ownerless goods. Parts three and four will explore the laws of consent and of crimes/torts respectively while part five will deal with some miscellaneous but nevertheless significant considerations. Read more
Trump, Brexit and Leftist Delusions – A Taste of Things to Come?
By Duncan Whitmore
Over the weekend Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally concluded his investigation into the possibility of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia in the run up to the 2016 presidential election. A summary of the findings released by Attorney General William Barr cleared Mr Trump of the allegations, thus ending a wrangling, two year process that has seen a number of Trump aides prosecuted for peripheral charges but nothing that smacks of being in bed with “the enemy”.
Over here in the UK, final frustration with the quagmire of the EU withdrawal process on the Remainer side has led to a petition to revoke Article 50 receiving a record breaking five million signatures, while a “People’s Vote” march in London on Saturday apparently attracted more than one million attendees – both dubious figures, incidentally. Thus, we are now expected to believe that the “will of the people” has turned against a Brexit that never could have been anything other than a complete, unmitigated disaster.
All of these events represent, on both side of the Atlantic, the childish attempts by the leftist-liberal elite to block out of their minds the possibility that maybe – just maybe – their vision of globalisation, open borders, multiculturalism and ever greater degrees of economic control in the hands of multinational institutions really isn’t what millions of their fellow countrymen and women wanted. That may be Trump really did get elected to office fairly and squarely, and it was not a foreign-orchestrated stitch up; that may be the British people didn’t just swallow a bunch of “lies” from the official Leave campaign, nor was their vote for Leave, to quote Lord Adonis, a “populist and nationalist spasm” rather than the manifestation of a long, deep seated antipathy towards the EU that has been bubbling under the surface since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. All of these charades by those on the losing side have been nothing more than exercises in coating themselves in yards of bubble wrap – postponing the day when they have to step out of fantasy into reality, and realise that their visions of a world order that seemed so secure prior to 2016 are, in fact, crumbling around them. Read more
Distinguished fellow of The Ludwig von Mises Centre Hans-Hermann Hoppe offers his thoughts on Brexit and the European Union during an episode of the Austrian talk show Hangar 7.
The dialogue has been subtitled in English by the original poster of the video on Facebook.
“Austrian” Business Cycle Theory – an “Easy” Explanation
By Duncan Whitmore
Compared to the simple and straightforward siren songs of “underconsumptionist” and “underspending” theories of boom and bust, “Austrian” business cycle theory (ABCT) can seem unduly complex. The former types of theory, associated with “mainstream” schools of economics, at least have the advantage of the veneer of plausibility, in spite of their falsehood. A glut of business confidence and spending will, it seems, naturally lead to an economic boom, a boom that can only come crashing down if these aspects were to disappear. For what could be worse for economic progress if people just don’t have the nerve do anything? Add in all of the usual traits of “greed” and “selfishness” with which people take pride in ascribing to bankers and businessmen (again, with demonstrable plausibility) and you have a pretty convincing cover story for why we routinely suffer from the business cycle. ABCT, on the other hand, with its long chains of deductive logic, can seem more impenetrable and confusing. Is there a way in which Austro-libertarians can overcome this problem? Read more
What about the Poor?!
By Duncan Whitmore
When discussing the virtues of a free society libertarians are able to expound with enthusiasm the benefits of private property, free exchange and non-violence. Most of the nagging questions – “how would policing work?”; “how would we regulate unscrupulous companies?”; or the clichéd classic “who will build the roads?!” – can be dealt with fairly straightforwardly as it is not difficult to show how such a free society would deal with these matters in a vastly superior way to one that is imbued with statism. Indeed, the struggle in this regard has less to do with formulating convincing arguments and more to do with tackling an inherent unwillingness to consider radical solutions.
However, there is one question that always presents a seemingly insurmountable difficulty – what would happen to the poor? By this, we do not just mean the accusations of a free economy being “sink or swim” or “dog eat dog”, which, again, are relatively juvenile sound bites that can be disposed of fairly easily. (Indeed, it is social democracies that are the true zero sum games as any redistribution of wealth or gain of power to the benefit of one must necessarily come at the expense of another). Rather, what we mean is the fact that a free world has no means of “caring” for the poor. In particular, there would be no “official” institution or “social safety net” to help those who were genuinely less fortunate. A libertarian might mumble a few words about the importance of charity but, with an outright declaration by one’s opponent that such a system is necessary, one may be tempted to concede that this is the Achilles’ heel of a libertarian society. After all, statists excel at conjuring the illusion that all of the care and compassion is on their side while they are able, quite easily, to paint proponents of the free market as little more than selfish money grabbers.
It is high time that libertarians (and their free market oriented fellow travellers) took the offensive against this problem by turning an apparent weakness into an advantage. By offensive, we mean not just constructing adequate rebuttals to the charge that capitalism cannot care for the poor. Rather, we need to set ourselves the more ambitious goal of proving that capitalism benefits the least well off as its primary effect, and that the poor do not benefit merely as an incidental consequence of making the rich richer. Read more
“Read Magazines, not Books” – Review of The Complete Libertarian Forum: 1969-1984
By Duncan Whitmore
“Read magazines, not books”. Such was the advice given to me by Theodor H Nelson, for whom I had the privilege of working for a number of years when I was a fresh-faced graduate. In Dream Machines (1974) Nelson, who is not a libertarian, had earlier justified his imperative by stating that “magazines have far more insights per inch of text, and can be read much faster”.
It is only after having finished The Complete Libertarian Forum: 1969-1984 (LF) – two, formidable volumes of a total of 1,200 pages of small print, the reading of which has occupied me on and off for the past year or so – that I can see precisely what Nelson meant, and more. For LF is not only a treasure trove of ongoing theoretical debates within libertarianism and of libertarian viewpoints on important global events at the time; it is a record of the successes, failures, triumphs and tragedies of the libertarian movement in one of the most turbulent periods in recent history. Read more