By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK
Are we beginning to witness more of a sea-change in the world? We see President Donald Trump in the United States attempting to roll back some of the American state. We see Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attempting to roll back some of the Austrian state. And now we see President Jair Bolsonaro attempting to roll back some of the Brazilian state.
[I’ll avoid talking too much about the gigantic mess of Brexit and that appalling globalist robot, Theresa May, but at least the process of Brexit has formed some part of the same momentum.]
Yes, we can all hope for the Hoppeian pipedream of waking up one glorious day surrounded by unicorns and pixies, along with a perfect constellation of tiny private law societies all over the globe, and be typically picky about each of these men and their imperfections in terms of libertarian flawlessness. We’ve been so successful with that particular strategy, over the years.
However, back here in the real world, I’m generally becoming more and more hopeful that we’re entering a new phase in history, one where we might actually reach that world of unicorns and pixies, one day, along with at least some Hoppeian private law societies.
By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK
I’ve just spent the last ninety minutes reading an amazing short book by Étienne de la Boétie, written in 1553, on the nature of how the state gains mass obedience and on how we can reduce and then eliminate the state by reducing and eventually eliminating that obedience in a completely non-violent manner, in a bid to create Hoppe-World. Yes, it’s a long battle, but one worth fighting for. Now I’ve read it, I think this book may be essential reading for all believers in property, freedom, and liberty.
My favourite quote:
“Let us therefore learn while there is yet time, let us learn to do good. Let us raise our eyes to Heaven for the sake of our honor, for the very love of virtue, or, to speak wisely, for the love and praise of God Almighty, who is the infallible witness of our deeds and the just judge of our faults. As for me, I truly believe I am right, since there is nothing so contrary to a generous and loving God as tyranny—I believe He has reserved, in a separate spot in Hell, some very special punishment for tyrants and their accomplices.” – Étienne de la Boétie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, 1553 A.D
A close runner-up, and my second favourite quote:
“Place on one side fifty thousand armed men, and on the otherthe same number; let them join in battle, one side fighting to retain its liberty, the other to take it away; to which would you, at a guess, promise victory? Which men do you think would march more gallantly to combat—those who anticipate as a reward for their suffering the maintenance of their freedom, or those who cannot expect any other prize for the blows exchanged than the enslavement of others? One side will have before its eyes the blessings of the past and the hope of similar joy in the future; their thoughts will dwell less on the comparatively brief pain of battle than on what they may have to endure forever, they, their children, and all their posterity. The other side has nothing to inspire it with courage except the weak urge of greed, which fades before danger and which can never be so keen, it seems to me, that it will not be dismayed by the least drop of blood from wounds. Consider the justly famous battles of Miltiades, Leonidas, Themistocles, still fresh today in recorded history and in the minds of men as if they had occurred but yesterday, battles fought in Greece for the welfare of the Greeks and as an example to the world. What power do you think gave to such a mere handful of men not the strength but the courage to withstand the attack of a fleet so vast that even the seas were burdened, and to defeat the armies of so many nations, armies so immense that their officers alone outnumbered the entire Greek force? What was it but the fact that in those glorious days this struggle represented not so much a fight of Greeks against Persians as a victory of liberty over domination, of freedom over greed?” – Étienne de la Boétie, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, 1553 A.D.
With a long and penetrating foreword by Murray N. Rothbard, the book is freely available to download:
For those who like that sort of thing, there is also an accompanying audio book:
Why Libertarians Should Read Mises
By Duncan Whitmore
In this final part of three essays exploring the importance of Ludwig von Mises’ for libertarian thought, we will examine Mises’ views on the fundamental importance of economics in society, and the meaning of this for understanding the particular nature of the state and statism in our own time. We will then conclude (in a separate post) with an annotated bibliography of Mises’ major works.
The Fundamental Importance of Economics in Society
Mises had a particularly insightful understanding of the special, foundational status of economics and the influence of economic theory in human society. In his own words:
Economics […] is the philosophy of human life and action and concerns everybody and everything. It is the pith of civilization and of man’s human existence.
Economics deals with society’s fundamental problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main and proper study of every citizen.
The body of economic knowledge is an essential element in the structure of human civilization; it is the foundation upon which modern industrialism and all the moral, intellectual, technological, and therapeutical achievements of the last centuries have been built. It rests with men whether they will make the proper use of the rich treasure with which this knowledge provides them or whether they will leave it unused. But if they fail to take the best advantage of it and disregard its teachings and warnings, they will not annul economics; they will stamp out society and the human race.1
The Useful Idiocy of the Left
By Duncan Whitmore
The typical libertarian is unlikely to open his YouTube account or Twitter feed without encountering a cascade of material in which a) the left is drawing attention to itself in a loud and obnoxious manner; and b) libertarians, conservatives and their fellow travellers are castigating the left for whatever it is doing. Given all of this attention paid to the left one would have thought that they must have something important to say. Let us look at a few recent examples to see if this is true.
On August 11th it was reported in the news that around a hundred or so protestors had appeared in the constituency of Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths to demand his resignation. No doubt the motivation of a small crowd of Mr Griffiths’ constituents to give up their afternoon and don placards calling for his head owed itself to something extremely serious. After all, surely we would only bother to march through the streets to protest if the matter was as grave as an illegal war, right?
Actually, the flames of fury were ignited by something altogether less serious. Mr Griffiths, who is married, had been sending a considerable volume of lewd text messages to two barmaids, the contents of which were published by the Sunday Mirror. The high crime which had fuelled the protestors’ rage was that Mr Griffiths is a “misogynist”, the protest calling for nothing more than a rejection of his “behaviour and attitudes”. Read more
Activism in Daily Life:
Casting Votes that Count
by Sean Gabb
25th August 2018
The more raddled and droopy my face grows, the more inclined I am to agree with a proposition put to me by various friends since before I needed to shave. This is that political activism is a waste of time. Oh, writing about politics – analysis, denunciation, a general flying of the ideological flag – that is probably time well-spent. I have always enjoyed it, and may have done no harm to the causes thereby supported. The waste of time is electoral politics and involvement in campaign groups. The first means joining political parties over which we have no control, and that are led by people whose behaviour – and increasingly whose speech – reveals them as our sworn enemies. The second means giving money to people who, with a few percentage wobbles either side, operate on the “Eighty-Twenty Principle.” 80p of every pound you hand over will be spent on whores and cocaine. Whatever remains that is not merely wasted will be spent on getting someone cheap to do the promised work. Read more
Anti-Leftism: A Century of Failure
7th July 2018
I am currently preparing another book of essays by my late friend Chris R. Tame. He was an accomplished bibliographer, and I have been slowed down in publishing his book by the need to type in hundreds of references scribbled over the hard copy. This has reminded me of the immense body of literature produced on our side between about 1930 and 1990. University professors, university journals, policy institutes lavishly funded by big business, economists, historians, philosophers, historians, sociologists, political scientists, journalists – no criticism in this period that could be made of the managerial state was left unmade. In writing his essays, Chris ran over whole libraries of books and articles. I read many of them when I was younger, and was convinced. Read more
Libertarianism and the Collective
By Duncan Whitmore
“Liberty means the right to shape your own institutions. It opposes the right of those institutions to shape you simply because of accreted power or gerontological status.”
– Karl Hess1
The libertarian ethic of non-aggression preserves the sovereignty of the individual – that no other person, or group of persons acting in concert, may initiate a physical incursion against your body or against the objects that comprise your property. In this sense you are, permanently, a free and independent being. On the other hand, it is an undeniable aspect of human history that we have grouped ourselves together into various forms of collective – states, nations, communities, congregations, businesses, families and so on – and that these collectives have taken on purposes and characteristics of their own that have served to subordinate the individual to the collective. Indeed, the meanings of these identities – their history, their traditions, their culture, and so on – and the passion that they can arouse suggests that they are far more than the sum of their individual parts. Take, for example, the unique splendour of the Lake District; the stirring words of the hymn “Jerusalem”; the pomp and circumstance of the Trooping of the Colour; or even something as straightforward as sitting in a pub with a pint of beer or munching on fish and chips. All of these things can arouse an overwhelming sense of pride for England and all things English. Surely these things are much greater than and should not be expected to yield to the whims of any one mere individual Englander, particularly when most of them have been around for centuries before him? Read more