As progressive, bleeding heart libertarians have a tendency to pretend theirs is the “correct” form of libertarianism, the same can be said of ‘Hoppean’ socially conservative libertarians. From both sides, libertarians who actually embrace a philosophy that would let them give meaning to their own lives, have to endure the self-serving nonsense from either side that attempts to pull the philosophy of liberty into their own preferred cultural camp. There are too many such attempts out there to bother with them all. It serves a point to just pick one out on occasion. So I’m doing that with this one.
“This week, Mises Institute President Jeff Deist gave what is probably the most important libertarian speech made in the past decade (bold emphasis added):”
What Jeff Deist did, was give perhaps the most important speech in the last decade from someone who wants to depict libertarianism as a mere subcategory of conservatism. Deist is the president of Mises Institute, an organization full of very intelligent and in most cases very praiseworthy people, with a lot of good things to say on many topics, who nevertheless have an annoying habit to look at everything through libertarian glasses only if libertarianism is regarded as a conservative subcategory. In other words, from Jeff Deist nothing different was to be expected.
“..libertarians have a bad tendency to fall into utopianism, into portraying liberty as something new age and evolved. In this sense they can sound a lot like progressives: liberty will work when human finally shed their stubborn old ideas about family and tribe, become purely rational freethinkers (always the opposite), reject the mythology of religion and faith, and give up their outdated ethnic or nationalist or cultural alliances for the new hyper-individualist creed.”
Paleolibertarians, including many at Mises, have a bad tendency to fall into traditionalism, into portraying liberty as something that required and still requires conservative cultural values about family and religion. This is once again clearly proven by the completely conservative, as opposed to libertarian, viewpoint that Deist expresses here, where all the usual conservative buzzwords are ticked off. Deist even goes so far as to paint the word “individualist” in a negative light.
Deist thinks liberty is not something “new age and evolved.” But the fact of the matter is that it is, for true liberty (in the libertarian sense of the word) has hardly ever existed in history, at least since the agricultural revolution (in other words, since before the birth of Judaism and Christianity). Persecution of people with the “wrong” thoughts, beliefs and ideas has been rampant all throughout time since then, many times at the hands of religious people or people that otherwise wanted to impose their own set of morals on society. For instance, blasphemy only became an existing act once religion became an existing phenomena, and blasphemy has been harshly punished all throughout human history. As a matter of fact, religious beliefs have been the very weapon used by tyrannical rulers to demand obedience to the state (or to be more precise, to him). A priestly class was employed to achieve this, in exchange for very rewarding compensation to priests, in the form of wealth, privileges and their own power. And who hasn’t heard of the terms “divine ruler ”and the “divine right of kings”?
It is quite clear that family has never been regarded as a problem by many dictatorial types of leaders in history; history which didn’t start with socialists and communists. There have been theocracies, inquisitions, persecutions, wars, torture, witch hunts, imprisonments, and mass murders, justified by religious and conservative values all throughout history. These persecutors had traditional ideas and family values. That’s why they persecuted people in the first place. Because they refused to give any quarters to those who had different ideas. Galilei Galileo, to name but one very well known example, had no reason to admire the libertarian values within the pious people that hounded him.
Religion and the state, and family and the state, have not been mutually exclusive, despite what paleoconservatives would like many libertarians to think. And I don’t think it even needs elaborating that nationalist, ethnic and/or culturally homogeneous sentiment and the state have most certainly not been mutually exclusive. Yet the point is made in such a way that we are to think they were, and are.
Conservatism may not be new age and evolved, but libertarianism is, for it gives the individual the kind of liberty that, historically, neither conservatives nor progressives have made any allowances for. Libertarianism says that you don’t have to be a conservative or a progressive, but can adopt any non-aggressive viewpoint you like and that makes sense to you in order to get the most happiness out of life. Without the state, or anything or anyone else, being able to impose their own values on you through force. The latter is most certainly not a conservative or progressive idea, but a libertarian one. And is precisely the reason that libertarianism is neither conservative nor progressive. And is precisely the reason that libertarianism, if realized and maintained, is a new idea and an evolved idea.
For an example, it is in the war of independence that the American colonies fought with the British royal kingdom, that libertarians were the radicals, whereas the conservatives Tories were constantly trying to either slow down the clamor for revolution, or sabotage it. Pre-1775, libertarians and conservatives were on opposite sides on many issues, including the war for independence itself, and only nationalism would allow conservatives to pick the right side of history. To make it clear: nationalism and not libertarian values made conservatives choose American independence over staying with the British kingdom.
In terms of obedience and loyalty to the state as such, conservatives were indeed conservatives, wanting merely to replace British rule over the colonies by American government rule over the colonies, whereas the libertarians were arguing against rule, period. In that very same era, religious persecution of more libertarian thinkers was rife, thus proving religious people were mostly antagonistic toward enlightened libertarian ideas of self-ownership.
These are merely some examples of proof that libertarianism is not only not conservative, but that conservatives and religious people have historically been downright hostile to libertarian principles.
“…It scarcely needs to be said that family has always been the first line of defense against the state, and the most important source of primary loyalty — or divided loyalty, from the perspective of politicians.”
It scarcely needs to be said that family has never successfully defended people from the state and its transgressions. It also doesn’t need to be said that no individual need be forced to choose to be loyal to anyone they don’t choose to be loyal to. The latter serves to show that the above, quoted argument presents a false dichotomy. Loyalty can only be a matter of free choice. Actually making a somewhat conservative statement, I would say that neighborhoods, communities and other types of microsocieties can serve this function as well. In a number of cases, families actually manage to drive people into the arms of the state. Families can be wonderful in exactly the way Deist supposes, but can also be destructive. Family bonds are not holy, and are not ideal by default. Blood ties do not necessarily have to mean anything. Even the Bible proves this by having Cain murder Abel, and having Abraham be willing to murder his son to prove his faith to God.
Families have never stopped the state from coming into existence, nor have they ever stopped states from growing in power, nor in keeping individuals with family values from showing allegiance and obedience to the state. A certain type of state, perhaps, but not the state qua the state. Yes, families may be a first line of ideological defense against, say, communist states. But why wouldn’t they be, when the communist state wants to target precisely families as its enemies in the fight for loyalty? Yet, does this say anything about the state by default? Leave the family unit alone, and families will have much less of a problem with the very concept of a powerful state, as history has proven.
“Our connection with ancestors, and our concern for progeny, forms a story in which the state is not the main character. Family forms our earliest and hence most formative environment — and at least as an ideal, family provides both material and emotional support. Happy families actually exist.”
Happy families actually exist. So do unhappy and dysfunctional families that do not provide material and/or emotional support. Is there any point to this argument? Some of us have a well-developed connection with ancestors; others do not. Some of us have concern for progeny; others do not regard progeny as a goal in life. And while the state may not be the main character in such stories, it can and most times certainly will be A character. So what does any of this have to do with libertarianism, in which the state ideally plays no character at all? Unlike conservatism qua conservatism, libertarianism qua libertarianism is precisely about there being no state to play any important part in life. Therefore, the question is why libertarianism as a political philosophy ought to embrace subjective conservative values.
But government wants us atomized, lonely, broke, vulnerable, dependent, and disconnected. So of course it attempts to break down families by taking kids away from them as early as possible, indoctrinating them in state schools, using welfare as a wedge, using the tax code as a wedge, discouraging marriage and large families, in fact discouraging any kind of intimacy that is not subject to public scrutiny, encouraging divorce, etc. etc.
Yes, yes. Modern governments do. But this still doesn’t prove why libertarianism qua libertarianism, which would not allow for any such state intrusion in these matters, need be conservative. And just as government uses manipulative means to establish loyalty to itself, so can families. Families may not always be capable of using force to establish this, but in libertarianism qua libertarianism, neither can the state. And families can be quite adept at indoctrinating people as they grow up, in terms of values and religious beliefs. So no proper argument in favor of conservative values as a necessity for libertarianism has been made here. As a matter of fact, the same argument can be made for the progressive side of things. On the progressive “libertarian” side, it is (e.g.) communes that could take the place of traditional families to achieve roughly the same goals. No sufficient point is made that traditional families are the necessary requirement here. As I have established earlier, blood ties do not necessarily mean much at all. If they did, many more people would like Thanksgiving family get-togethers.
“This may all sound like right-wing talking points, but it doesn’t make it untrue.”
It doesn’t make them untrue. But it does make them insufficient. And incredibly self-serving if coming from what is quite clearly a right-wing conservative.
“…Religion forms another important line of defense against the state. In fact the whole history of man cannot be understood without understanding the role of religion.”
The role of religion has been to teach people blind allegiance, blind obedience and blind faith. It has been to impose values on people without questioning whether they are the correct values (because one does not question God). The role of religion has been to indoctrinate susceptible children into a belief system with the help of nightmare predictions about hell and damnation in the case of sin. The role of religion has been to pay no heed to rational discourse, even when it comes to morality, and that understanding the difference between right and wrong requires the dictates of a supreme being rather than one’s own moral compass in combination with reason. The role of religion has been to provide motive for the persecution of people with different beliefs or lifestyles. And ironically, the role of religion has been to give power to rulers, by telling the religious, through allied priestly classes, that God commands obedience and loyalty to the ruler.
If religion had truly been an important line of defense against the state, no proper argument could be given to account for the fact that the large majority of the religious happen to be statists. Because of the Republican party, and presidents such as George W. Bush, religious people threw their support behind large scale, destructive state aggression against other states. Because of the combination of religion and state, the War on Drugs has wrecked countless lives. As a matter of fact, the very Pope himself is championing the state, and state intervention in a collectivist form. If religion had truly been an important line of defense against the state, there would have been no “divine right of kings”, no theocracies, no political power for the Church in the middle ages, no Constantine, no Spanish inquisition, no Salem witch trials, etcetera, etcetera.
The notion that religion is an important line of defense against the state is, frankly, absurd in the extreme.
“Even today healthy percentages of people in the West believe in God, regardless of their actual religious observance. And believing in a deity by itself challenges the state’s omniscience and status.”
This is an entirely meaningless argument so long as religion itself is not turning people into libertarians. And quite clearly, the number of people with which it does so is negligible. The argument is meaningless so long as the state does not attempt to turn all citizens into atheists, or force them to do things that are counter to their religious beliefs. Libertarians are against state impositions by definition. Are conservative and religious people only against the state when the impositions are inconvenient to their religious beliefs? The reality seems to prove so, at least for the majority of them. Deist is trying to make a case for religion where there is virtually none. The only case he has, is that religion would be important as a last line of defense against a state that is openly hostile to religion, such as a communist state. But libertarianism is not merely against communist states. It is also against theocracies. Guess what; most Middle Eastern countries are either virtual theocracies, or are states heavily based on religious doctrine. Is religion a last line of defense against the state in, say, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan? Is the family unit a last line of defense in these countries?
“Again, religion stands as a potential rival for the individual’s allegiance — And it has a pesky tendency to resurface no matter how much authoritarian governments try to suppress it.”
That is why most authoritarian governments try not to suppress it; certainly not historically. States do not have to rival religion for the individual’s allegiance to get them to obey and be loyal to them. Theocracies and other states not openly hostile to religion clearly prove this.
…Mecca is not Paris, an Irishman is not an Aboriginal, a Buddhist is not a Rastafarian, a soccer mom is not a Russian. Is it our goal to convince them all to become thorough Rothbardians?
At the least, I think it would be our goal to ultimately convince them to not initiate aggression against others, either by themselves or through the state. Otherwise I would not see the point of this entire speech. The speech was supposed to be one in favor of libertarianism, right? And not one merely in favor of conservatism?
Either way, I fail to see the point of this particular argument. If we have to assume that some people have no intention of ever embracing the core tenets of libertarianism, then who cares what they believe in? Whether I am kicked by a mule with his right hoof or his left hoof makes no difference to me.
“….In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.”
Keeping this in mind is not the same as telling them they’re right, and even much less embracing these concepts ourselves. By the very same token, it could be argued (regardless of whether either of these viewpoints have merit) that libertarians ignore progressive values that matter to many left-wing people at the risk of irrelevance. But Deist, not surprisingly, doesn’t take that into consideration. Because, again, Deist is arguing from a self-serving position as a conservative.
“I highly recommend you read or listen to the entire speech. Libertarians everywhere would be wise to heed Deist’s counsel. He clearly understands that unless libertarians acknowledge these realities, they will be irrelevant in an age of renewed nationalism and decentralization.”
First of all, libertarians need to acknowledge only what libertarianism is supposed to stand for, and not what conservative or progressive statism stands for. And most of the people on both sides of the aisle represent statism, not libertarianism. This is the reality that Deist and other conservative “libertarians” do not seem to acknowledge. Furthermore, author “The Question” of Anarchist Notebook then proceeds to contradict himself, at least from the libertarian perspective, by stating that we live in an age of renewed nationalism and decentralization. Either one is a nationalist or one believes in decentralization. Nationalism generally boils down to worshiping the national state. That’s why you tend to find nationalism most with strong and authoritarian states.
Next up, decentralization (if indeed the clamor for it is renewed, which is begging the question) is not a reality that libertarians would not be willing to acknowledge and welcome. So there is no point for him to make here. Nationalism, because it virtually always is contradictory to decentralization and libertarianism, is a different matter. It is generally a sentiment in which the nation-state is worshiped and one’s own state is regarded as superior to that of others. That is why nationalism tends to be one of the prime motivators of people hungry for, or at least being willing to engage in, international conflicts.
It should also be plainly obvious that although in some quarters nationalism is on the rise, it should not be exaggerated to the degree that it is. Trump only won the election by marginal numbers, and that is with the Podesta emails being released. These numbers are nothing special, considering who his opponent was, and the mere fact that Republicans win elections often, even when they are not as openly nationalist as Trump is. In Austria, the Netherlands and France, political correctness was once again victorious over nationalism in their national elections. In the U.K., the Conservative Party won, but only barely, and the much more nationalist UKIP was obliterated.
Finally, just because nationalism may be renewed, does not lead to the conclusion that libertarians then ought to pay tribute to it, adopt it, accept it, or make a libertarian tenet out of it. Quite the contrary. There is no more need to do any of these things, just because it is ‘renewed,’ as there would be a need to do any of these things if politically correct, statist, collectivist and leftist sentiment were to be ‘renewed.’ Such an argument would be no more than an appeal to popularity. Libertarianism is not a fad or a trend, and it is not supposed to adapt to the winds of change, if the change is not in line with libertarian philosophy. Libertarianism is not about winning a popularity contest. If it were, it would generate an argument for meaningless “big tent” libertarianism, which is precisely what most conservative libertarians oppose.
If the philosophy of liberty should become irrelevant in modern times, then so be it, how horrible this may be for liberty lovers. You don’t attain liberty by accepting that liberty is dead, and joining your ideological opponents. And if our ideological opponents are not our opponents at all, but our fellow liberty lovers, then what is there, really, for libertarians to heed, or not to acknowledge?
“Further, the myth of a “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” libertarianism is dead. A true libertarian society would be both fiscally and socially conservative. “
This is a typically self-serving statement by a writer who is conservative first, and wants to fit the libertarian peg into his own conservative hole. The words “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” mean absolutely nothing from the viewpoint of actual libertarians, precisely because libertarianism is neither conservative nor liberal (in the progressive sense). For libertarians, there is only “fiscally libertarian, socially libertarian” because it is about any way you choose to live so long as no aggression is initiated. Fraudulent libertarians do not understand this, because they simply do not understand or accept true free choice, and true liberty. They can only interpret these concepts from either the conservative or “liberal” point of view. Conservative economics is not the same as libertarian economics, and social progressivism is not the same as social libertarianism. Many conservative libertarians likely do not even truly cherish liberty, except in so far as it suits them personally. What they seem to want is conservatism period, and the only thing that makes them libertarian at all, is the realization that the state is standing in the way of achieving their goal.
A true libertarian society would be neither conservative nor liberal, because in a society of free will and free choice these two concepts would be rendered as meaningless as it would be that someone is nutritionally conservative or progressive.
Quite frankly, the argument is so devoid of logic it is baffling as to how someone dares to make it. If something is libertarian (as in resulting from free choice, without the application of coercion), then it cannot be conservative by nature, for the mere fact that people are entirely free to be progressive in social attitude if they want, regardless of any consequences this attitude may have for them personally. I have no idea whether paleolibertarians stumble onto their own negation of any meaning to the word “libertarianism” by accident, or if there is a certain intent to it.
But they are no different from the left-libertarians that try to negate the meaning of libertarianism by infusing it with all kinds of progressive nonsense and expectations. I’m a libertarian, and in a libertarian society your conservative values would mean nothing to me, nor your religious views, nor your own glorification of the family unit. At the same time, progressive values about economic equality, or sensitivity about certain politically incorrect words, would mean nothing to me. You could not impose them without resorting to aggression. You could initiate forms of ostracism among likeminded fellows, but the reverse is easily just as true, all of which merely means that various different ‘enclaves’ with internally shared lifestyles would form. Even then, libertarian society would not be “conservative” but diverse, even if the diverse would ignore each other completely.
“Libertinism is sustainable only by forcing a healthy, productive sector of a community to subsidize the behaviors of a few social parasites.”
Utter nonsense. Productive people can be libertines in their private time, and thus subsidize their own lifestyles. Plenty of people in the productive sector visit prostitutes, watch porn, have open or other non-traditional marriages, buy and consume drugs etcetera. Often, in so far as they cannot indulge in libertinism, it is because the state has a habit of imposing its own values on society. As a result we have seen the Prohibition Era, the War on Drugs, anti-obscenity laws, anti-gambling laws, anti-prostitution laws and various other kinds of coercive state sermonizing about lifestyle choices. So ironically, it has been conservatives who have employed the state and its monopoly of violence to impose their personal morality on the rest of society, at taxpayer expense.
Anyway. Even if libertines were to be ostracized by the conservative sector of a libertarian society, they could simply form their own lifestyle-sharing societies. Different societies could trade regardless of their differing lifestyle choices, or they could opt to boycott each other, in which case all sides are equally impacted economically (unless various non-conservative enclaves decided to collectively boycott and punish the conservative enclave for its busy body attitude to people with differing lifestyles). Sure, the consequences of certain lifestyle choices may not be as healthy as they are of others, but this changes nothing about the fact that people in the productive sector can be libertines, nor does it change anything about the fact that, sans aggression, their behavior is perfectly in line with libertarian philosophy. Where “The Question” or a Jeff Deist would imply the latter is not the case, they are not being libertarian in their viewpoint at all. They would merely be conservatives posing as libertarians.
Is libertinism ultimately sustainable? There is no reason offered it couldn’t be, if certain choices were not made. If libertines would continue to procreate, and to subsidize their own habits, and to continue to be productive in the economy, there is no reason a libertine lifestyle would be unsustainable. But even if it weren’t, it would still not render it “unlibertarian.” Just as it is not about either progressive or conservative values, about either voluntary group loyalty or total egotistical forms of individualism, about non-aggressive intolerance or tolerance, hate or love, about acceptance or ostracism, libertarianism is not about sustainability of any particular lifestyle.
It is about private property rights and the non-aggression principle as the foundations to be able to live a free life. Period.
“Blood and soil, God and nation – these are things that people value most, not cheap, imported goods or fast Internet connections and casual sex after a puff of weed.”
It doesn’t matter what people value most, as far as libertarianism goes. What matters is that they accept non-aggression and private property rights. Nobody has to care about anybody’s god or bloodlines. The moment they are forced to, there is no libertarianism. So the question becomes simply whether people want to use force to impose their views on others. If they do, they are not libertarian, period. End of discussion. And they do not deserve to be embraced or in any way catered to by genuine libertarians. Within the strict boundaries of libertarianism (its two axioms), people can value whatever they want about blood and soil, God and nation. And other people can reject and ridicule these concepts with equal vigor.
Libertarians that do not understand or accept such simple things about the philosophy of libertarianism – the philosophy of liberty -, should come out of the closet and declare themselves statists. If they are ultimately still genuine libertarians, then it is time to stop trying to make the issue much more complex than it really is, and to stop trying to smuggle values into libertarianism that have nothing to do with it.
The irony is that Jeff Deist and other paleolibertarians don’t want libertarianism to alienate conservatives that are potentially libertarian, while actually doing precisely that to all non-conservative libertarians and non-conservative potential libertarians. It would be different if they would just as eagerly try to appeal to, say, progressives if progressive values were on the rise in terms of popularity, but we know their interest in conservative values is a self-interest. So they need to stop pretending that it is about alienating, or not accepting, conservatives, when they are clearly busy doing precisely that – alienation – to all those who couldn’t care less about traditional values.
“Any libertarian policy that ignores or rejects this truth is both flawed and useless to solving the very problems libertarianism claims to address.”
The only problem that libertarianism claims to address, is the state and any other person or organization that initiates aggression. It does not by itself give a good Goddamn what you believe in, what social ties you prefer having, what lifestyle you prefer to lead, what type of person you want to spend your life with, what you like to smoke or inject into your veins, or anything of the sort.
Conservative and religious people need to know and accept that about libertarianism, or they simply could not ever be libertarian. It is that simple. Conservatives nor progressives can blackmail libertarians into accepting their lifestyle and only their lifestyle in exchange for a libertarian society, because the latter would be rendered totally meaningless in its very principles, and the State would actually make more sense. They cannot suggest their own membership to the libertarian community, by demanding that we all embrace their conservative or progressive subjective values. Because what we would end up with, is no more or less than the state itself, in order for these conservative or progressive values to be enforced. For what is the state, if not merely the expression of a nation’s subjective moral values and the desire to impose them on all others?
I could keep responding to people that make self-serving conservative cases for their own version of libertarianism, but that would be moot, as I expect that these people are conservative or religious first, and are only libertarian in so far as it would not interfere with the personal values they cherish most. But the whole point of libertarianism is that I do not have to care one way or the other about their values, so long as no aggression is initiated. And so they in essence reject the first principles of libertarianism, because these principles are clearly value-free, except in their own self-contained way. Private property rights and non-aggression are moral values in and by themselves, but beyond themselves say nothing about anything else. That means I do not have to care about your God or Godlessness, your family values or your values as a loner, your opinions about hedonistic lifestyles or the hedonistic lifestyles people lead.
Because many conservative and progressive people who claim to be libertarian do not get this simple fact, they see openings to smuggle their personal values into the foundation of libertarianism. Their arguments will always amount to the same, and are all easy to dismiss precisely because their arguments themselves are not based on any understanding of libertarian principles to begin with. They may claim a libertarian society is not sustainable, or may not succeed (in whatever it is they think libertarianism is supposed to “succeed”), but don’t understand that libertarianism is not about sustainability or “succeeding”. It is not a lifestyle, or a complete belief system; it is set of moral principles. It does not, for instance, have anything whatsoever to say about whether the human race as a species should procreate, or whither away. The latter choice is to be made by people with free will, free choice and according to their own consciences. I realize that especially religious people may have a big problem with this, because God has ordered them to go forth and multiply.
As long as people adhere to libertarian moral principles, these principles succeed by default, because they exist for their own sake. For the sake of private property rights and non-aggression as tools for individual liberty. Not for any other higher, subjective aim that all should champion. What happens to your life, or society, outside of adhering to these moral principles, is entirely up to you, or to society.