How to Fight for Liberty, Part 6 – Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up
By Duncan Whitmore
In the previous two essays in this continuing series on fighting for liberty, we discussed the value of radicalism and then of conservatism in contributing towards a political strategy. A suggested reconciliation between these two, apparently different approaches centred on the fact that, on the one hand, libertarians must be uncompromisingly radical in terms of their rejection of the state; on the other hand, we must be conservative by encouraging this rejection from the bottom-up rather than imposing it from the top-down.
This part will explain in detail why this bottom-up approach is essential, and why all attempts at a top-down restructuring of the societal order are unlikely to ever result in a permanent victory for liberty.
The Top-Down Failure of Statism
Austro-libertarians are well accustomed to explaining why top-downism fails when it is proposed by statists. Socialism, for instance, suffers from the economic calculation problem. If the state owns all of the means of production across the entire economy then there is no trade in machines, tools and equipment. Without trade in these factors then they cannot command market prices. If there are no market prices then it is not possible for a state controlled planning board to undertake any kind of cost accounting. Without accountancy, there is no way of determining profits and losses. And if there are no profits or losses then you can never know whether scarce factors of production are being deployed efficiently or wastefully. The result is economic chaos as the capital structure deteriorates into a quagmire of wasteful surpluses of some goods and chronic shortages of others. In the former Soviet Union, for instance, fields of crops were left un-harvested because as much as one third of agricultural machinery stood idle owing to a shortage of spare parts.
Ultimately, however, all kinds of top-downism fail because they are fundamentally at odds with the nature of human beings – that we are each individuals with our own ends and desires, and that we each act within a local, limited environment so as to fulfil those desires. In human society (and often, for that matter, in the natural world), anything that can be observed as a complete, harmonious system is not the product of any one individual’s design or action in the way that a single architect may design a building or a sole author can write a novel. Rather, social systems are the amalgamation of thousands of individuals striving to fulfil their individual ends in such a way that nevertheless manages to mesh them into a coherent whole. Institutions such as culture, language, market prices, customary legal systems and money are of this ilk. No one person ever invented any of these, and yet we can clearly define them as singular entities that exist to fulfil human purposes in a conflict-free manner.
At the time of writing, the mainstream media is ploughing ahead with its coronation of Democrat candidate Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, even though, officially, the race still hangs in the balance. Incumbent Donald Trump has refused to concede, alleging fraud and other irregularities in the balloting process that happened to affect a handful of key swing states. Such allegations are likely to result in a series of forthcoming court battles prior to the formal convening of the Electoral College.
Whatever the outcome of this election, enough is already known to make some preliminary remarks concerning the impact it might have on the near future.
The most important aspect – another blow to the ailing polling industry – is that there has been no grand repudiation of the Trump phenomenon. Four years ago, half of the US electorate voted for the man who railed against the liberal/leftist/globalist establishment; and four years later that half has not only refused to budge an inch but has, in fact, added to its ranks another ten million voters. Contrary to the narrative of his supposed racism and white supremacy, Trump also increased his share of black and Latino voters.
All of this is comes in spite of (or perhaps because of) the full weight of the establishment and big tech social media doing everything it could to discredit the legitimacy of the Trump presidency (Russiagate, impeachment etc.) while throwing in its lot with the Biden camp. Continue reading →
On Show 24 of the Mises UK Podcast, with host, Andy Duncan, we speak with our Caledonian man in Edinburgh, David Farrer, the power behind the throne on the ‘Freedom and Whisky’ blog site. We talk about the current state of Scotland as regards freedom, whisky, socialism, and secession, given the failure of the 2014 referendum to secede Scotland from the United Kingdom, and the rumblings of a second secessionary referendum planned by the Scottish National Party, slated possibly for 2021.
The tenth annual gathering of the Property and Freedom Society took place in September this year.
The uncompromising, intellectual, radical elite of individuals from places as far apart(both culturally and geographically) as Bahrain to Hong Kong, Egypt to Costa Rica came together in one place to discuss the ideas of freedom, mock the politically correct culture of the state’s ruling class and enjoy each other’s company.
Interesting place: I must investigate some more. It may be that more geographic parts of the planet, within the UK, might be persuaded to secede from Gordo-Jaqcistan. Technically, if it was a bit of the United Kingdom, I would be advocating treason, but I don’t somehow think that real soldiers would come after such people, and Shetland is not really part of the UK in spirit anyway, even if close geographically. Only interior ministry troops would be an irritation and a bother, until they starve to death.
Perhaps Daniel Hannan would support a move for people to take citizenship of this Forvik place, if Gordon Brown persists in smirking shallowly, in front of people, about how badly he has done as a Chancellor and also as a PM.