Tag Archives: libertarianism

Libertarian Media of the Year 2018


Epiphany is here and all merriment on New Year’s Eve has given way to the reality of another year of mixed blessings. We can now clear-mindedly reflect on all the delights, dedicated to proceeding ever more boldly against evil, we received in 2018. SPOILERS!!!

Movie:

Whilst Upgrade deserves an honorary mention as a cautionary tale for libertarians – freedom doesn’t necessarily lead to virtuous behaviour, certainly not from a super-intelligent AI – the most libertarian film of 2018 is arguably Incredibles 2.

The chief complaint about this film was that the general plot was very similar to the first film – a mysterious tech billionaire employs Mr. Incredible with the hidden agenda of wishing to eliminate all superheroes. In the second film, yes, brother and sister tech billionaires, Winston and Evelyn Deavor, do employ Mrs. Incredible, i.e. Elastigirl, to take part in an albeit illegal comeback display of heroism, broadcast to the world as part of a campaign to repeal the legislation which drove superheroes underground. And, yes, Evelyn, as it turns out, is the one behind the mask of the Screenslaver, who hypnotises folks to do her wicked bidding. And, yes, she wants to see the world turn entirely against superheroes to see them shutdown forever. However, this film picks up from the moment the first left off, and the moral tale does so too – and don’t all the best moral tales for all the family use repetition?

Libertarians loved The Incredibles and it’s not hard to see why: a father works outside of the law, and a soulless job he hates, to do good; the overall picture is one of government regulation and bureaucracy getting in the way of talented individuals from doing their best. This sequel asks the natural question of whether this is responsible; whether it is good. The main parental argument of this film sees the mother declaring that they should be teaching their children to obey the law, yet the father insists that they should not be taught to obey bad laws – oh, how rare it is to hear such things. Yet, this was the heart of Western civilisation. ‘What are we teaching our kids?’ asks Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible. However, this is nothing we haven’t seen in the first film. The major difference and the heart of the libertarian message of the film comes from the different opinions presented to us by the sibling tech billionaires.

You see, Winston and Evelyn take different opinions on their father’s death – Evelyn believed he should have taken his wife to the safe-room when their house was entered by armed robbers, whereas Winston thought the father was right to go for a hotline to the superheroes, whereupon he was shot. Evelyn’s Screenslaver makes some compelling arguments about how reliance on superheroes makes us weak – our bourgeois habit of putting everything on a screen and distancing ourselves from the action does so too. But, she is missing the point, which the people-person, Winston, understands and embraces – that the superheroes are real people, good people, our neighbours, wanting to help.

Whereas the Incredible family are told by the police to let the villains make off with the money etc. and let the insurance companies deal with it, we see that the numerous instances of love and sacrifice, which make the family stronger, are just what the community/the world needs to make it a better place. Winston would use his wealth to make this happen; Evelyn, however, is blinded by anger and fails to see that love and trust in those with greater abilities doesn’t make one weaker, nor does leaving everything up to the state and/or insurance companies make us stronger.

Book:

Tom W. Bell’s Your Next Government?: From the Nation State to Stateless Nations came just before 2018, true. But, it’s been introduced to so many libertarians in so many conversations this year, I can’t fail to recognise it. What can I say? Most of you are familiar with Dubai and a growing trend in special jurisdictions around the world; this Cambridge University Press book, however, takes the argument further and makes remarkable predictions about this future trend, sure to delight libertarians everywhere:

‘Governments across the globe have begun evolving from lumbering bureaucracies into smaller, more agile special jurisdictions – common-interest developments, special economic zones, and proprietary cites. Private providers increasingly deliver services that political authorities formerly monopolized, inspiring greater competition and efficiency, to the satisfaction of citizens-qua-consumers. These trends suggest that new networks of special jurisdictions will soon surpass nation states in the same way that networked computers replaced mainframes. In this groundbreaking work, Tom W. Bell describes the quiet revolution transforming governments from the bottom up, inside-out, worldwide, and how it will fulfill its potential to bring more freedom, peace, and prosperity to people everywhere.’

Purchase the book here: Your Next Government?

TV Show:

Daredevil is undoubtedly the best of the Netflix Marvel superhero series. It deserves an honorary mention, but I mustn’t press the narrative of ‘superheroes acting outside of the law for the good of natural law’ any further. Watch Daredevil; he’s a Christian superhero/lawyer who acts on his moral instincts by night where the legislation of the US fails on the streets of New York during the day. Enough said.

The real winner here is a Spanish show, titled Casa de Papel or, in English, Money Heist, and can also be viewed on Netflix. The plot revolves around a group brought together by a brilliant man, known as the Professor, to carry out a mysterious heist on the Royal Mint of Spain. They wish to print many millions of Euros and have a plan to get away with it all. But, has the Professor accounted for everything? Are the personality clashes of the group, the hiccups and unexpected turns part of his ingenious plan or not? Notice, I haven’t left any spoilers here for you; watch it and enjoy the Professor’s tirade about the motivation for knocking off the central bank – truly the libertarian gem of 2017/2018.

Game:

Many will cry, ‘Red Dead Redemption 2!’ Nay, I say, but Kingdom Come: Deliverance. My decision is based on a little more than a preference for the medieval over the wild-Western aesthetics – both charming. In Kingdom Come, players are truly challenged by those obstacles to freedom, indeed, the necessities and manners which maketh man – strong men, even – capable of acquiring and sustaining freedom. This is because one goes from simple village politics as a smithy’s son to becoming a lord, but not before having everything taken from you and having to build it all, from the pig’s filth, up. What’s more, the setting is that of the bedrock of Western civilisation – Latin Christendom – and the troubles and turmoil which were rocking its world, and which would ultimately lead to the rise of nation states.

Let’s take these lessons to heart in 2019, grow stronger and make the world a better place.

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Libertarianism is Subsidiarity


The conventional definition of a ‘state’, as provided by Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, is ‘an agency…that exercises a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision-making. That is, it is the ultimate arbiter in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving itself, and it allows no appeal above and beyond itself.’1 Europe, however, developed remarkably different systems of law and advanced stateless civilisations, as I have written about in detail elsewhere. Nevertheless, a growing number of Western nationalists have begun to idealise the more oriental, statist elements of the Roman Empire, as influenced by the Etruscan patricians, mistakenly perceiving statism to be the traditional European system of law and order. Consequently, they perceive modernism, especially the modern state, as a welcome reinvigoration of this supposed Western political tradition.

In this article, I will argue that sovereign, patriarchal institutions are necessary to sustain decentralised juridical orders; more specifically, the European tradition of having a plurality of such interacting institutions was what prevented the rise of states and allowed the development of famously European liberties, from the ancient Indo-Europeans to Latin Christendom. The emphasis on the patriarchal element of jurisdictions is important to understand how to optimise human liberty.

For example, let us cast our minds to Robinson Crusoe on his island – a favourite hypothetical of Rothbard; alone on his island, Crusoe possesses free will and is also free in the sense that most libertarians would understand the word – that is, no potential interloper is present to create a conflict over the scarce resources on the island and Crusoe’s negative, assumed rights to these remain unviolated. Now, let us assume Crusoe finds a woman on the island, and she becomes his wife and the mother of their children. Would we object to Crusoe acting as the ultimate decision maker of this family unit? The vast majority of us would not. Most Christians among us believe it is perfectly natural and right for the father to be the ‘head of the family’; the strict Rothbardians essentially agree on similar grounds, i.e. that the young children haven’t yet reached an age of reason. But, let us add a crucial variable to this situation.

Let us suppose that Crusoe has dominated a sort of Amazonian tribe of women on the island. Crusoe has also developed a superstition regarding the island’s active but quiet volcano, even worshipping it as some deity. Crusoe sacrifices all his male offspring into the volcano’s fiery mouth, as well as the more mouthy of his wives. Do we agree with this situation? The strict Rothbardians would perhaps only object (in terms of law) if any of the women disagreed with this arrangement. Imagine, if you will, one of the Rothbardians washing up on the island, yet all of the women agree with and were even the ones who converted Crusoe to this volcanic religion; they are perfectly satisfied with the sacrifice of their male infants, which they believe has not only quelled the volcanic eruptions, but it also blessed the island with their special prophet, Crusoe. What objections would the Rothbardian raise?

The following is Rothbard’s most controversial belief – an absolute and consistent, if hyper-individualistic, position regarding the duties of a parent to their child from the perspective of negative rights:

‘It must therefore be illegal and a violation of the child’s rights for a parent to aggress against his person by mutilating, torturing, murdering him, etc. On the other hand, the very concept of “rights” is a “negative” one, demarcating the areas of a person’s action that no man may properly interfere with. No man can therefore have a “right” to compel someone to do a positive act, for in that case the compulsion violates the right of person or property of the individual being coerced. On the other hand, the very concept of “rights” is a “negative” one, demarcating the areas of a person’s action that no man may properly interfere with. No man can therefore have a “right” to compel someone to do a positive act, for in that case the compulsion violates the right of person or property of the individual being coerced… [T]his means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die.’2

So, the Rothbardian might suggest that Crusoe simply leave the babies at the side of the volcano instead, where they can die slowly, whether he personally finds this abhorrent or not. I highly doubt they or Rothbard himself would ever suggest such a thing, but he might come away from this experience with a greater respect for the cultural power of a shared belief, especially a metaphysical belief. Had the Rothbardian been a Christian, he might likewise recognise he has no legitimated authority per se on this island, but at least he would certainly have a missionary duty to attempt to convert Crusoe and the women, and end this diabolical cycle of murder. You might think this is a ridiculous hypothetical, but this struggle against the brutal paterfamilias was a stark reality in medieval Europe.

We say that all have free will, but what of those beliefs which totally deny this? What about total moral relativism? What about the shattering of justice into a spectrum of definitions, so that actual injustices to the natural order of the human world can simply be termed ‘social justice’? It should be clear to anyone who has engaged Western leftism of late, let alone anyone who has studied history, that there is and always will be a market for injustice. The legalistically Rothbardian, that is, hyper-individualistic among us would probably have had little success in ending the ancient, assumed rights of family heads – you choose your private court and I’ll choose mine. But, Christendom brought a plurality of natural law-oriented jurisdictions – practically speaking, competing patriarchies which didn’t threaten the liberty of the father, but rather refined it and allowed greater liberty for women and children.

Prof. Anthony Esolen describes what he calls the baptism of the paterfamilias by the monastics:

‘One of the great unheralded events in history occurred in the early sixth century, when a monk named Benedict of Nursia was asked to write a rule governing life in the monastery at Monte Cassino. Benedict aimed to provide a Roman orderliness and moderation, unlike the spiritual athleticism of the East, with its daring flights of physical deprivation and marathon prayer… Saint Benedict’s genius was Roman; his instincts favored the stable and conservative.’3

The monasteries produced highly disciplined men who gave up their lives to work wholly towards the ideal, preserving and developing Christian civilisation, not just by clearing the forests and swamps and harnessing natural forces with brilliant machines, but by bringing an alphabet, the continuation of classical wisdom and reason, and the preservation of aesthetic beauty. These men were led by an abbot (from abba – father), inspired by the highly patriarchal culture of ancient Rome. Monasteries became centres of learning as well as economic and technological hubs. Later, guilds, universities, entire cities etc. would follow a similar pattern and would result in sovereign patriarchal institutions – the sort of environment in which jurisdictions could compete to provide sustainable order and liberty.

Esolen is right to describe this as a baptism of Roman patriarchy, as Roman law was built from the individual household up, with the father as head of each household and considered, along with the eldest son, to be a proper citizen. Indeed, as Prof. Larry Siedentop notes, ‘Citizens were originally simply the patres, something surviving in Roman usage when senators were called the “fathers” of the city.’4 Naturally, there emerged in the cities large, aristocratic, patrician families. So, this informed Roman public law, of course, with the senators being the ‘godfather’ figure to large bodies of junior branches of families and even more clients. Just as in ancient Greece, people belonged to the city and its gods, with the free patriarchs having ‘freedom’ in the sense of sharing the positive exercise of coercive government. Now, it’s important to understand that these people were thoroughly religious and not the extreme secularists modernists on the right romantically imagine them to be, so the system was not lightly challenged by underclasses. Just as with Crusoe on his island, a spiritual change would have to occur to so change Europeans’ understanding of individual freedom as we know and love it.

As Siedentop explains, the ‘old aristocracy’ of ancient Rome and the concept of kingship were always understood as a religious role; the undermining of this, i.e. ‘what moved the younger sons, clients and plebs was a desire to share in the privileges of the citizen class – to cut a figure comparable to that of a class which had hitherto combined the gravitas of priests, the pride of rulers, and the glory of warriors.’ As such, Siedentop identifies the preference of the underclasses for tyranny as simply a way of smashing the old order and maybe getting a better deal;5 the echoes of this can be seen in the Monarchic, French and Bolshevik Revolutions. But, as libertarians, we agree that greater centralised statism is not desirable, regardless of how we arrive at that conclusion.

So, we need to briefly digress to see where the European paterfamilias emerged from, in order to understand why Christendom and its plurality of jurisdictions was able to bring a level of peace to all of Europe – succeeding where pagan Roman Empire had failed. The ancient Europeans had their household gods – departed and glorified ancestors – who were invoked for assistance through the household fire, making the hearth the centre of the physical home, the abstract family unit and the spiritual elements which sacramentally unified the whole. The father was at once priest and ultimate decision-maker for the family; the eldest son would take on the continual maintenance of the family fire and invoking the idols around the heart – the basis for primogeniture in royal and other lineages, as well as gathering pictures of family around the mantelpiece of the fireplace, usually at the centre of the Western home. For women, marriage into the family meant taking not just the name but the religion also.

With the establishment of Latin Christendom, however, came a system which respected the father as head of the family, the masters, chairmen, principals, presidents, lords, kings etc., right up to the authority of the emperor. This was not simply a hierarchy, but horizontal, even parallel authorities had become sovereign and there was the cultural court of appeal of the Church’s canon law available at any level and to all. Indeed, the new belief that all had a life to live before God and were loved by Him anathematised brutality towards infants, who were now baptized into the Church, and women too could choose whom they married and had their own vows, as well as patriarchal authorities to keep a brutal husband in check.

Under such a system of patriarchal authorities, the expectations that men naturally impose on each other – ‘breaking each other’s balls’ when unnecessary weakness and irresponsibility was displayed – was palpable; thus, the traditional doctrine of subsidiriaty developed organically and would later become clarified Catholic social teaching, placing decision-making at its most local, immediate level. It is this subsidiarity, this undertaking and grasping of responsibility by men, down to the individual man, which enables countries like Switzerland and Liechtenstein to become so greatly admired by libertarians as sustainable, successful models for preserving decentralised authorities.

The individualistic, laissez-faire bourgeoisie so admired by most libertarians, however, is typically a culture of passing off responsibility when it becomes ‘cost-effective’ to do so, e.g. paying taxes is easier than fully undertaking everything required for me to defend my and even my neighbours’ properties, regardless of what effect this has on the masculinity of my community. Libertarians must re-evaluate the importance of cultural factors, such as patriarchal authorities, which sociologist, Steven Goldberg, brilliantly identified as inevitable in human groups decades ago, remaining unrefuted. We can conclude by declaring that competing patriarchies create greater freedom as the dominating aspects of masculinity, at any scale, are tempered by the protective. Also, as I have argued elsewhere, the importance of religion is fundamental to providing a shared definition of justice and, as a market and respect for injustice is ubiquitous, this demands to be considered in libertarian thought. I think my concerns were best brought home by the words of Mises Institute president, Jeff Deist:

‘what would you fight for? The answer to this question tells us a lot about what libertarians ought to care about. By this I mean what would you physically fight for, where doing so could mean serious injury or death. Or arrest and imprisonment, or the loss of your home, your money, and your possessions. I’m sure all of us would fight for our physical persons if we were attacked, or for our families if they were attacked. We might fight for close friends too. And perhaps even our neighbors. In fact we might like to think we would physically defend a total stranger in some circumstances, for example an old woman being attacked and robbed. And we probably would fight for our towns and communities if they were physically invaded by an outside force, even though we don’t personally know all of the people in our towns and communities. How about an abstraction, like fighting for “your country” or freedom or your religion? This is where things get more tenuous. Many people have and will fight for such abstractions. But if you ask soldiers they’ll tell you that in the heat of battle they’re really fighting for their mates, to protect the men in their units–and to fulfill a personal sense of duty. In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.’6

1 Hoppe, H. H. (2006) ‘The Idea of a Private Law Society’ – https://mises.org/library/idea-private-law-society (30/09/2018)

2 Rothbard, M. (2015 ed.) The Ethics of Liberty, NYU Press, p.100

3 Esolen, A. (2008) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, Regnery Publishing Inc., pp.121

4 Siedentop, L. (2014) Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, Allen Lane, p.27

5 Ibid., p.31

6 Deist, J. (2017) ‘For a New Libertarian’ https://mises.org/wire/new-libertarian (30/09/2018)

Why Libertarians Should Read Mises – Part Three


Why Libertarians Should Read Mises 

Part Three 

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

Read more

Why Libertarians Should Read Mises – Part Two


Why Libertarians Should Read Mises

Part Two

By Duncan Whitmore

Introduction

In Part One of this series of three essays exploring the significance of Ludwig von Mises for libertarian thought, we examined the specific place that Mises holds in our tradition, and outlined the unique sophistication of his utilitarian theory in favour of freedom compared to that of other theories that can be grouped into this bracket.

In this part we will turn our attention to a detailed analysis of the action axiom – the keystone of Misesian economic theory – and its implications for concepts that we readily encounter in libertarianism.

Somewhat ironically, it was largely as a result of his influence that the wertfreiheit of Mises’ praxeology was regarded as a separate discipline from the search for an ultimate, ethical justification of liberty – a belief that was sustained by Murray N Rothbard.1 In more recent years, Hans-Hermann Hoppe has probably come closest to providing a link between the two through his derivation of “argumentation ethics” within the praxeological framework, and his identification of the pervasive problem of scarcity – a key praxeological concept – as underpinning any system of ethics.

Nevertheless, one may conclude that a full reconciliation, or synthesis, between the two is still wanting and that there remain other important commonalities to which this essay will seek to provide an introduction. Some of what we will learn below will have implications for a general understanding of right, and that the truths we reveal are inescapable for any political philosophy. Others will be specifically pertinent to libertarianism and will provide us with insights as to how we can further the libertarian goal. Read more

Why Libertarians Should Read Mises – Part One


Why Libertarians Should Read Mises

Part One

By Duncan Whitmore

Introduction

There is little need to point out to members of the forum bearing his name that Ludwig von Mises was one of the most passionate and influential defenders of the free market in intellectual history – the lynchpin of a tradition running from Carl Menger in the late nineteenth century to the active members of the flourishing “Austrian” school today. Many libertarians – including the present author – first found their enthusiasm for the philosophy through contact with Mises’ work and, in spite of the undeniably titanic influence of other great men in the field (such as Murray N Rothbard), it is Mises who remains the primary inspiration of many an intellectual career within Austro-libertarianism.

Mises made relatively few pronouncements that were concerned specifically with ethics, his intellectual endeavours being focussed mainly on developing and expounding economic theory and epistemology. It is true that he regarded this theory as the basis for an unflinching advocacy of what could then be called liberalism – an aspect we will explore in detail. However, he did so on the basis that, in general, “people prefer life to death, health to sickness, nourishment to starvation, abundance to poverty” and that praxeology and economics “teaches man how to act in accordance with these [presupposed] valuations”.1

Many libertarians share this attitude and believe that the enormous increase in the standard of living that would be afforded by the free market provides its strongest justification. Indeed, it would be futile for any strategy for achieving a libertarian world to omit this powerful argument – particularly when it becomes clear that the established elite are using the existing corp-tocracy to enrich only themselves, causing the siren song of socialist alternatives to grow dangerously louder. Read more

The Useful Idiocy of the Left


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

Is Libertarianism Utopian?


Libertarianism – and any political position that leans towards a greater degree of freedom from the state – is opposed both ethically and economically on a number of substantive grounds. The proposition that without the state we would have inequality, destitution for the masses, rampant greed, and so on is a familiar charge which attempts to point out that libertarianism is undesirable and/or unjustifiable.

A further point of opposition is that libertarianism and the drive towards it is simply utopian or idealistic, and that libertarians are hopeless day dreamers, lacking any awareness of how the world “really” works. In other words, that, regardless of whether it may be desirable, some combination of one or more of impossibility, improbability or the simple unwillingness of anyone to embrace the libertarian ideal renders libertarianism either wholly or primarily unachievable. It is this specific objection that we will address in this essay.

Let us first of all recount the libertarian ethic of non-aggression, which states that no one may initiate any physical incursion against your body or your property without your consent. From this we can state that the goal of the libertarian project, broadly, is a world of minimised violence and aggression. Consequently, the questions we have to answer is whether a world of minimised violence and aggression is unachievable and, hence, utopian. Read more

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