Liberty and the Swedish Example
By Duncan Whitmore
“Many are irresistibly attracted to liberty as an intellectual system or as an aesthetic goal, but liberty remains for them a purely intellectual parlor game, totally divorced from what they consider the ‘real’ activities of their daily lives. Others are motivated to remain libertarians solely from their anticipation of their own personal financial profit […] The consequence of the narrow and myopic vision of both the gamester and the would-be profit maker is that neither group has the slightest interest in the work of building a libertarian movement. And yet it is only through building such a movement that liberty may ultimately be achieved.”
– Murray N Rothbard1
In the five decades or so since these words were written, we have been able to come to a more precise conception of what the “libertarian movement” should be and what it should do. As we have explained before, efforts to bring about a world in which a greater degree of freedom prevails are unlikely to be successful if we rely solely on the promotion of abstract concepts (such as “non-aggression”) – indeed, it is difficult to think of a more insipid rallying cry than “leave people alone”. Although there are particular moral propositions and personal qualities that are likely requirements for the sustenance of any free society, freedom is synonymous with self-determination – that different individuals, families, communities and nations will pursue their own goals based upon their own values. It is these varying pursuits themselves (embedded in the culture, custom and traditions of differing peoples throughout the world) which are likely to be the motivating factor, with liberty being the vehicle for their achievement rather than the end itself. Indeed, when we look to the inspirations that motivated some of the greatest authors, poets, artists and composers, they often chose to capture the essence of their homelands in their works: the “Sceptred Isle” speech of John of Gaunt in Shakespeare’s Richard II; Blake’s Jerusalem; Monet’s Sunrise; Smetana’s Má Vlast; Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony, to name but a few. In contrast, we might be waiting a very long time for “A Non-Aggression Symphony” or the “Ballad of Private Property”. Or, to give a sporting metaphor, we can look upon liberty as the pitch, but not the game. The turf needs to be laid and the grass watered and mown, but the motivation to do these things is the thrill of the match that will be played. Read more
The Left’s Exploitation of Race
By Duncan Whitmore
Nearly two years ago, the present writer published on this blog an essay concerning how gullible leftists are whipped up into frenzies of hysteria for the purposes of fulfilling a political agenda often only loosely connected to the problems of which they complain. An example we gave was the leftist outrage at Donald Trump’s supposed racism and misogyny, allegations which are raised solely because of the wider threat that Trump poses to the mantra of globalisation and a US hegemonic world. Absent that threat, none of the 45th President’s alleged affronts against women and other races would have seen the light of day. Fast forward to today and the protests, riots, and looting following the killing, by a Minnesota policeman, of a black man whom he was apprehending, have demonstrated this useful idiocy – fuelled also, no doubt, by the economic frustrations of younger, university educated middle classes whom the COVID lockdowns may have driven over the edge – to an even wider extent.
Regardless of the specific images of rioting and violence with which we were greeted last weekend, it is probably the case that the vast majority of those who took part in the protesting feel that they care, quite genuinely, for what they perceive to be the plight of African-Americans. It is typical for libertarians, and the right genuinely, to paint all leftists as dyed-in-the wool Marxists hell-bent on destroying Western civilisation, but we should remember that many of them are themselves victims of years of indoctrination by their schools, universities and mainstream media which presented them with a wall of unbridled, hegemonic leftism. Indeed, we have to hope that they are not all committed fanatics immune to reasoned rebuttals of the leftist monologue, for if they are then our cause may well be lost. A handful of personal acquaintances of mine who drift around the left but who have, other than minor mutterings about Brexit and Boris, scarcely uttered a political statement in their lives, have, within the last few weeks, unloaded a deluge of social media condemnation of police brutality and decrying “institutional racism”, all with the “#blacklivesmatter” hashtag. A few even donned placards and took part in the protesting. True enough, most will be content to merely virtue signal rather than do anything that actually makes a real difference, and most have already reverted to posting “selfies” and worrying about the fact they cannot get a haircut during the COVID-19 lockdown. But they are not fundamentally bad people. Read more
Liberty and Society – a Reply to Ben Lewis
By Duncan Whitmore
In a recent post on this blog, the present writer offered an explanation as to why the intellectual accomplishments of Austro-libertarians have been disproportionate to their relatively meagre success in effecting real world change. We concluded that the attempt to merely spread ideas of the justice of non-aggression and the truth of “Austrian” economics is, in spite of its importance, not enough. Libertarians must also learn how to mould these ideas so that they speak to people’s aspirations within the prevailing conditions in which they live.
In a short post on the blog of Bastion Magazine – a relatively new publication which shares similar intellectual and political priorities to those of Mises UK – Ben Lewis has chimed in with something similar, addressing what he calls “the inconsistency of libertarian consistency” – that while conservatives, according to him, concede that libertarianism is a more logically consistent philosophy, this feature does not necessarily make the latter a superior system of thought should it be also inconsistent with “the real life nature of man and society”. These sentiments are in the same vain as three of his earlier blog posts where he discusses voluntary social relations, social duties and his reasons for being a conservative.1
To be fair to Lewis, not every view examined in this essay is necessarily one that he has stated explicitly and it would be wrong to ascribe to him a belief in every matter that is subjected to criticism. However, in the interests of thoroughness, we will examine not only what Lewis has actually said but also that which could be reasonably interpreted or inferred from what he has said.
…and What it Must Do
By Duncan Whitmore
Anyone who has taken the time to study in depth the wealth of scholarly literature of Austro-libertarianism cannot help but be enthralled by the intellectual treasures provided by our school of thought. Not only have we uncovered a body of knowledge which – especially in comparison to mainstream social science – is rigorous, scientific, coherent and interdisciplinary, but, as the true successors of classical liberalism, we have an inspiring vision of the future that can sweep away war, conflict, strife and poverty while propelling the human race to unheard of heights of peace and prosperity. Indeed, for many of us Austro-libertarianism has been the most joyous and rewarding discovery of our lives, providing a sheltered harbour in a world which would otherwise leave us adrift in a sea of chaos.
Unfortunately, we are forced to admit that the intellectual accomplishments of Austro-libertarians are disproportionate to our achievements in effecting real world change which, by comparison, are almost miniscule. Although most forms of direct socialism have been discredited by the disaster that was the Soviet Union, we are today living in a world of unprecedented state power which the majority of the population, buoyed by a sense of control instilled by their occasional visits to the ballot box, views as entirely legitimate. It is bad enough that the modern nation state has accreted to itself power and functions that ancient kings and emperors could only dream of; but we are confronted also by a pervasive attitude that any difficulty, problem, error, injustice or whatever that life may choose to throw at us – including our own personal foibles and failings – is always the state’s responsibility to solve. The problems of paper money, the welfare state, boom and bust, public “education”, crippling regulation, disastrous overseas wars and all of the other ills bred by the state are not going to be vanquished when the majority of the public regards this institution as the magic carpet that will whisk us all away to the land of milk and honey. Read more
Globalisation – the Baby and the Bathwater
By Duncan Whitmore
If the liberal-left was hoping that the recent state visit to the UK by Donald Trump would provide the perfect opportunity to (once again) castigate him for his supposed “racism”, “misogyny”, and a fervour for “nationalism” that apparently puts him on par with Hitler, they have probably been left disappointed. In fact, the visit seems to have come off rather well for the 45th President. Sadiq Khan, London’s leftist mayor, succeeded only in burying himself in a Twitter spat that began before Air Force One even touched down on the tarmac. The anti-Trump protests in Parliament Square – at which, for want of imagination, the Trump “baby blimp” was re-deployed (and subsequently burst by a Trump sympathiser) – failed to attract the anticipated attendance. Instead, news reports of Trump being received warmly by the Queen, behaving graciously and courteously at the state banquet, and delivering a positive and optimistic joint press conference with the Prime Minister about the future of the US-UK relationship, have most likely lent him an air of statesmanship that he has previously lacked. Even the BBC was forced to concede that the trip has, somehow, “normalised” Trump, and that, rather than banishing the orange-faced “fascist” from our shores forever, we should probably recognise that he is “here to say and [so we] had better get used to him”. Read more
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
Immigration – An Austro-Libertarian Analysis
By Duncan Whitmore
Both the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as the US President have elevated the topic of immigration to the top of the political agenda. Leftist, liberal elites – previously so sure they would arrive easily at their vision of an open, borderless world – have been scalded now that the lid has been lifted from the bubbling cauldron of the needs of ordinary, everyday citizens seeking to preserve their jobs and the culture of their homelands.
It is high time that this vitriolic, divisive and – frankly – often quite tiresome issue is put to rest. That, alas, is unlikely to happen, particularly as the political globalists seem content to plough on with their vision of open borders through the looming UN Global Compact for Migration. Listening to the mainstream arguments (or at least to how the leftist/liberal media chooses to portray them), one would be forgiven for thinking that the immigration question needs to be met by an all or nothing answer – i.e. that it is either an unqualified good or an unqualified bad. We are led to believe that it is a contest between liberals, or self-styled “progressives”, clamouring for fully porous borders on the one hand, versus elderly, conservative, racist bigots who supposedly want to keep everyone out and preserve England’s green and pleasant land for white faces.
The falsehood of this dichotomy is obvious to almost anyone who is not of the liberal-left, and, in fact, a “sensible” view on immigration is quite prevalent – that it is possible to be in favour of permitted, but regulated immigration, allowing some people to cross the border as immigrants to come and live and work in the territory of the state while denying that privilege to others. It is also recognised that immigration is economically beneficial in some situations, but not in others – i.e. when immigrants are highly skilled and productive instead of welfare consumers.
The task of this essay is to sharpen this “sensible” view with Austro-libertarian theory. We will begin by outlining the core libertarian theory concerning immigration before examining a key area for contention among libertarians – whether, in a world populated by states, any particular state should restrict or otherwise control movements across the border by persons who are not considered to be citizens of that particular state and whether this is in accordance with libertarian theory. We will then move on to exploring the economic and cultural implications of immigration policies. Read more