Can’t we all just get along?…Revisited

“Like any ideology that has attracted a substantial following, libertarianism has splintered into a variety of sects. Thus, there are hard-core and soft-core libertarians; plumb-line and big-tent libertarians; Rothbard-loving and Rothbard-hating libertarians; pro-political and anti-political libertarians; academic and movement libertarians; thick and thin libertarians; socially conventional and libertine libertarians; pro-war and anti-war libertarians; bleeding-heart and bleeding-ulcer libertarians; beltway and backwoods libertarians; uptight and party-animal libertarians; among others. Unfortunately, many libertarians devote substantial energy to quarreling with other libertarians. To some extent, such quarreling helps to refine people’s thinking, but for the most part it is a waste of time and does nothing to move us closer to the goal that all libertarians share — the shrinkage of the state as it now exists.

My view is that libertarianism is best regarded as an ideology focused on moving from the current state toward a smaller state — for some of us, a state so much smaller that it ultimately disappears completely and gives way to governance via individual, explicit, voluntary contracting between protection agencies and every adult subject to an agency’s protection of its subscribers’ natural rights. Some libertarians want their ideology to be much more encompassing, but the more encompassing one insists that it be, the more margins there are on which libertarians will disagree and hence will fight one another.

In favoring a narrow view of libertarianism, I am not saying that protection of one’s natural rights to life, liberty, and property is the only valuable thing in life — far from it. But many aspects of how one conducts one’s life outside the realm, if any, in which the state plays a role ought to remain open to each individual’s choice and free of any governing agency’s involvement. People and their values are almost infinitely diverse, and people will never agree on many elements of social arrangements that might be subjected to uniform rules of governance. Hence, the greater the scope of strictly individual self-determination, the lesser the scope of governance, and the greater the tolerance with which people live and let live among their fellows, the more peaceful and flourishing society will be. The current social and political worlds are rife with conflict of all sorts about which one-size-fits-all rule the rulers ought to impose on us. This situation is bad enough without the libertarians adding to it their own intramural conflicts.”

-Robert Higgs

“Libertarian implies ‘free’. All people are guaranteed that heritage, including those currently mentally and emotionally handicapped, illiterate, addicts, brain-dead, condemned prisoners, bimbos, deaf, dumb and blind kids, babies in the womb, gang-bangers and political parasites. We are offered that right, but only a small percentage choose to apply it throughout their whole lives.”

-Robert Waldron

Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

5 replies »

  1. Fundamentally Libertarianism is a fallacy based on the incoherent incompatibility of metaphysical positions of materialism in anthropology; empiricism in epistemology; utilitarianism in ethics. With a strange sprinkling of Kantian deontology with Aristotelian teleology (both of which I support).

    Libertarians are essentially people who hold Kantian, Aristotelian and Millian (John Stuart Mill) philosophic principles based on incompatible foundations, without realizing their own absurdity.

    Reading this:

    How anyone can go from Plato, to Aristotle, to Aquinas, to Mises to Rothbard and really believe the connection needs to have their head examined. Given that Aristotle and Aquinas believed in teleology and libertarians as atheists cannot and do not accept teleology no connection exists. Praxeology cannot be descendant from teleology since the former is lacking a God/Forms/higher power to give order/telos to the universe is impossible and the foundations of the latter are denied by Libertarians. If their is no Higher Power there is no telos. Praxeology is a bastardized telos while denying its ultimate foundation.

    These and other philosophical incoherencies are the foundation of the eclectic and contradictory state of modern libertarianism.

  2. Here’s what I’m not quite getting:

    Why do you need to have elaborately constructed philosophical systems to, for instance, advocate for a non-interventionist foreign policy? Couldn’t you simply favor such on purely pragmatic grounds, or even for reasons of self-interest?

    Why do you need to have a specific view of teleology to endorse drug legalization merely on the grounds that having cocaine and heroin being sold at liquor or drug stores is better than having it distributed by the Mexican cartels?

    Why do you need a particular view of Plato, Aristotle or even Mises or Rothbard to critique, for example, the overreaches of zoning commissions?

    It’s like the old British social democrats used to say to the Marxists: “What does dialectical materialism have to do with municipal milk programs?”

    These kinds of considerations may be interesting as mental or intellectual exercises. But are they are necessary for a specific set of preferences for political institutions or public policies? For instance, I’m for the right to bear arms not because of anything John Locke said but because I pragmatically think self-defense is a good thing (if others don’t, good luck to them), and prefer that the police and military not have a monopoly over weaponry. That’s why I could care less about the debates between the factions over “what the founding fathers really meant” by the Second Amendment. Those kinds of arguments may be useful for propaganda purposes, or for crafting legal arguments if you’re an attorney arguing before the Supreme Court, but other than that what does it matter?

  3. “Why do you need to have elaborately constructed philosophical systems to, for instance, advocate for a non-interventionist foreign policy? Couldn’t you simply favor such on purely pragmatic grounds, or even for reasons of self-interest?”

    There are a lot of assumptions, hidden or otherwise, in your response I will only deal with a few of them.

    There are a lot of ways I could answer this, since there are a couple ideas being implied. 1) why can’t we just accept a commonsense rule of non-aggression, 2) why do we need a well thought out philosophical system.

    To answer the first question the pragmatic grounds you appeal to come out of a western christian context. The entire western mindset is incurably Christian. Even Christianity’s opponents seek to attack Christianity in terms and categories of thought inherited from Christianity. You are implicitly working out of a Christian world view. You don’t accept all of the doctrines of the faith, but religious tolerance, individual dignity, freedom etc. are all Christian ideas. The ancient Greeks and Romans did not have hospitals or charities for the poor. As Nietzsche states the moral dictates of Christianity are not at all self-evident, I cited that work in the response to your podcast. You are appealing to a law whose foundation you do not accept. This ‘pragmatic’ law is essentially a decayed form of Christianity and is not at all self-evident to non-Christians, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists or nihilists. In short 1) this principle is not at all self-evident (as Nietzsche noticed) and 2) it is based on the foundations of a faith you do not believe in.

    To answer the second question of why. For an analogy if someone were to say lets build a rocket-ship, but not worry about the abstract physics, mathematics and material sciences involved, but just working on the practical application of making a society that ‘could’ build a rocket-ship. We would intuitively know that this is silly. Ethics and civil government are the same. One can no more build a rocket-ship with a total ignorance of physics and material science than one could build an a ethical system and civil government without foundations. The rocket-ship is constructed on the basis of knowledge derived from physics and mathematics which are based on logical axioms (unprovable necessary assumptions). We must treat ethics and civil government the same way. They are based on axiology, anthropology, ontology etc. Which are in turn based on axioms. For example the Categorical Imperative.

    I think you would immediately see and admit the necessity of all this intellectual background in the construction of the rocket-ship, I am trying to get you to see that the same principle applies in ethics and civil government. Or in other words imagine trying to write a novel without understanding grammar or syntax. You couldn’t write it. Doing ethics without studying axiology (study of ethics), or without studying epistomology (study of how we know things), or without studying ontology (the study of being) is akin to trying to build a rocket-ship without understanding physics or writing a novel without understanding grammar; it just cannot be done.

    To classify the process of thought you begin with axioms, then you move toward general principles then you move to application. We saw this clearly with the rocket-ship, in your own thought you pass through, of necessity all three steps, but do to your disinclination to examine taxonomy of thought you are unaware of the explicit process itself, you are performing this process unconsciously. If you examined the taxonomy of thought you would see that this is in fact what you are doing, implicitly at the moment, and you could be doing it better if you performed it explicitly, by actively analyzing it.

    Your goal is to analyze current affairs and seek to find solutions to the pathologies of the modern age. The problem is without a firm logical foundation no analysis can take place. First one must be able to distinguish between intellectual categories and concepts to even render the world intelligible. Second one must be able to discern sound reasoning from unsound reasoning. To analyze anything one MUST believe in universals (immaterial forms/or God, which give order to the material world, as found in Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas). Most moderns are nominalists. Nominalism denies the existence of universals. Rather than chairs being an expression of chairness, each individual chair is object1, object2, and object3 etc. They are completely unrelated sense perceptions, but the Nominalist himself violates his own nominalism, for whenever he speaks he is implicitly using categories which themselves are universals. To render nominalism even remotely intelligible (i.e. a class of people who reject universals) one must use universals, i.e. the class of nominalists. One must assume what one explicitly denies. A series of unintellgible random sense perceptions is useless and one cannot render it useful without imposing telos, universals, or categories, but moderns deny these concepts. Rational thought becomes impossible.

    One’s statements must be intelligable to even be evaluated as true or false. Most statements, by most modern secular theocrats (neo-nazi’s, commies, ancaps and left-anarchists), are incoherent. They are not intelligible enough to even be evaluated as true or false. One cannot analyze what is incoherent. So for your project you, of necessity, must clearly and logically map out (use of universals) what is being discussed and then evaluate the coherency of the current level of discourse. Trying to analyze the modern political world without a firm basis in logic is like writing a novel with no knowledge of grammar or build a rocket-ship with no knowledge of physics.

    There are other hidden assumptions in your response, that could and should be teased out, but at a latter time.

  4. “What do you think of Martin Luther? Wasn’t he a nominalist who detested the classical Greeks?”

    Yes Luther was a nominalist, but not a consistent nominalist. Luther combined scholastic nominalism with Christian dogma and the inherent contradiction was finally resolved in the favor of nominalism. To be a consistent nominalist Luther would have to have been an atheist; since God is the ultimate universal. Our current society has jettisoned Christianity in favor of nominalism. Which as I have stated above in incoherent. Luther was a rebel against reason and an advocate of fiedism. Throughout christian history there has always been a recognition that Christianity is compatible with reason. From the earliest days until the present this has always been the dominant strand of thought.

    “Don’t Buddhists have charities?”

    The question I posed was not: 1) only Christianity provides the foundation for humanitarianism, or 2) non-Christians cannot behave in a Christian manner.

    Sure Buddhists can be charitable and even athiest’s, but can someone rationally ground their belief that charity is good in their own world view? Buddhists can certainly make a better case for charity than an atheist. Is one’s worldview internally consistent?

    My point was that as westerners we are not Buddhists, Hindus, Doaists, or Shinotists. We are the offspring of the merger of Athens (Greco-Roman Philosophy) and Jerusalem (Jewish-Christian theology). One, as Nietzsche pointed out, cannot appropriate Christian mores and Christian ‘commonsense’/’pragmatism’ if one denies the foundations of Christianity. As Nietzsche said it is a package deal. Take God and His law or reject God and His law. Godless liberty is an oxymoron. Since the western conception of liberty is deeply indebted and ingrained in Christian doctrine. Sure you could redefine liberty in such a way that nothing Christian remains, but in that case nothing much remains of liberty. As you pointed out the Greek-city states were a rather harsh place to live as women, slaves and children. Christianity ennobled the lot of all three groups, many pagan’s claimed the Christianity was a weak religion in that it appealed to women and slaves.

    Sure you could become a Buddhist and accept charity and vegetarianism based on reincarnation, don’t want to eat your great-great grandfather, but nobody in the west, with the exception of immigrants from the east come from a tradition of Buddhism.

    The Libertarians have rejected the foundation of western humanitarianism the Judeo-Christiain world view. Having rejected such a world view they have no claim to humanitarianism. Furthermore their epistemology is hopelessly confused assuming Kantian deontology, Millian utilitarianism, Ayer’s verificationism (despite Ayer’s himself having rejected the philosophy) and Aristotelian telos. It a kind of Frankenstein made from different body parts, that really don’t fit together. Could a rationally consistent libertarianism or anarchism be developed? Possibly, but I have not seen it yet.

    I am only asking for the consistency of believe that would be required of me and that would be required by Nietzsche.

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