by John Payne
The most famous battle in the long, internecine war on the right between libertarians and traditionalists was fought over Labor Day weekend, 1969 at the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) convention in Saint Louis. The two groups argued semi-peacefully over a number of proposed planks for YAF’s platform–the legalization of marijuana, withdrawal from Vietnam, etc.–but when a libertarian delegate stepped to the podium, declared the right of every individual to resist state violence, and lit his draft card on fire, the convention was ripped apart. The libertarians cried “Sock it to the state!” while the traditionalists chanted “Sock it to the left!” and mocked the libertarians as “lazy fairies” (get it?).
Many people consider that moment the birth of the modern libertarian movement as a separate entity from the conservative movement. The old alliance between the two groups never completely dissolved, but the rift between them has never fully closed either. When the libertarians struck out on their own over forty years ago, there was no question which group was dominant: the conservatives were more numerous, better funded, and far better represented in the halls of power. Now, despite being united in opposition to the Obama Administration, that rift appears to be widening again, but it’s less clear who is winning this time.
The events of the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) read almost like a bizarro version of the 1969 YAF convention. Instead of the libertarians being driven from the group, it is the traditionalists who sidelined themselves because of the presence of the self-proclaimed gay conservative organization GOProud. Instead of libertarians being attacked by angry pro-war conservatives, the libertarians heckled a Vice President and Secretary of Defense who launched a war of choice. Most notably, the libertarians were a clear plurality (but not a majority) of the attendees who bothered to vote in the straw poll as Ron Paul won with 30% of the vote and former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson took third with an additional 6%. In short, the libertarians have taken control of a decades old conservative institution.
Of course, this has led to much gnashing of teeth among the traditionalists–most comically in this poorly written piece by radio host Kevin McCullough. (Seriously, it seems like it was written by an overeager college freshman playing political Mad Libs.) The most common complaint is that the conference did not represent conservatism, and I must admit that the critics are right. Conservatives still far outnumber libertarians, and in most cases, they wouldn’t vote Ron Paul or Gary Johnson for president. However, CPAC has never been representative of conservatism as a whole–it’s a conference for conservative activists, intelligentsia, and college students, who are by far the largest group. So while CPAC does not perfectly reflect conservatism at the moment, it does give us a glimpse at its future. Libertarians are clearly ascendant among activists on the right, and that will probably translate into a far more libertarian conservatism ten or twenty years down the road.
Although at the 1969 YAF convention, the losers would be later to win, in this bizarro version, the losers are really the losers–forever. There will always be “traditionalists,” but it’s unlikely that conservatives will still be getting worked up over homosexuality or even gay marriage in twenty years time as support for gay marriage steadily rises, even among conservatives, as the demographic gets younger. From a broader view, the traditionalists have been losing all along, given that gay marriage is even under consideration, and their luck is not likely to turn around.
Libertarians are not on the verge of sweeping into power in Washington or even becoming the dominant force on the right. Middle-aged (and older) conservatives are still the ones running the show, by and large, but libertarianism is the animating spirit of the young people on the right, and the other members of the so-called “conservative coalition” ignore that fact at their own peril.
Is the Islamic world finally catching up with the 19th century? Charles Glass thinks so.
This is an interesting quote:
To return to your provocative question, in my fantasyland, there would still be a Left and a Right—and granolas and libertarians and animal rights activists and Mormons, et al.—but they would operate within Western unity and natural hierarchy.
Some, no doubt, might counter that you can’t have a “non-egalitarian Left.” But I don’t agree with this at all. Jack London was a collectivist; HL Mencken, an anarchist; both were “leftists,” of sorts, and both rejected egalitarianism. And they both operated on a different planet than the whole spectrum of contemporary Leftists and Rightists, from Glenn Beck to Cornell West.
A writer for the right-wing isolationist JBS has some bone to pick with the left-wing anti-imperialist Chomsky. And they both think modern America parallels Weimar Germany, but for different reasons. See the article.
So who is it that threatens America? Fascists of the Left or fascists of the Right?
Unions: heroes or villains? Murray Rothbard thought it was the latter. What do you think?
Back during my serious leftist-anarchist days, I used to do strike support work for unions including the Greyhound strike Rothbard discusses. My experience was that most strikers couldn’t be bothered to even show up for picket duty. Instead, they would just sit at home and collected their strike pay and unemployment. Being a rather devout anarcho-syndicalist at the time, I used to think, “These guys are the revolution?”
Ron Paul wants to end foreign aid to all Middle Eastern countries. Sensible enough. Read all about it.
Horowitz’s rants have about as much rationality or coherence as the typical Weather Underground communique circa 1969. So much for his claims to be a “reformed” commie.
One puppet state after another is falling or going its own way. Pat Buchanan explains.
Is what Krauthammer proposes really self-rule for other countries, or is it acceptance of a permanent American suzerainty? He seems far less willing to allow Egypt to go its own way than to have Egyptians live according to his wishes. Why not describe his political program as having the US government force the rest of the world into compliance with the neocon vision of a good society?
If Krauthammer is universally concerned with freedom, why doesn’t he protest the continual infringement on free speech and inquiry in Western “democracies” in the name of fighting hate speech and unkind thoughts? In France one can now be arrested and thrown in jail for questioning the “Turkish genocide.” The same is true throughout the EU for those who challenge the governmentally recognized account of the Holocaust. It is also quite possibly a punishable crime in France to reissue Jean Raspail’s Le Camp des Saints. According to Le Figaro Magazine, the novel’s 85-year-old author will have courts prosecuting him and his publisher on 87 counts as soon as his reprinted work hits the bookstands. In this novel, first published 35 years ago, Raspail depicts Indians fleeing en masse in a boat to France. Since this voyage is shown in a less-than-complimentary fashion, the author is subject to judicial prosecution for having insulted Third World sensibilities.
Raspail told Le Figaro that freedom’s primary threat isn’t “Big Brother,” it’s “Big Other”—the silent shaming collective force of those who aren’t native Europeans. He points out that there are now multiple laws in his country, mostly passed by French communists and socialists, criminalizing ungracious speech against certain (particularly non-Christian and usually nonwhite) minorities.
But there are governmental attacks on politically incorrect sentiments closer to home. In Saskatchewan, ministers have been threatened with jail if they read aloud passages from the Bible that are sexist or homophobic. Presumably said ministers can get away with this act against Canadian “human rights” if they dissuade their parishioners from believing in the offending biblical ethics. Why are attacks on liberty acceptable when done in the name of “human rights” but not because of the Koran?
Does democracy really exist in a land where the media is incompetent and the government is unaccountable and lies through its teeth every time if opens its mouth?
“Curveball” represents a new level of immorality. Rafid al-Janabi shares responsibility for one million dead Iraqis, 4 million displaced Iraqis, a destroyed country, 4,754 dead American troops, 40,000 wounded and maimed American troops, $3 trillion of wasted US resources, every dollar of which is a debt burden to the American population and a threat to the dollar as reserve currency, ten years of propaganda and lies about terrorism and al Qaeda connections, an American “war on terror” that is destroying countless lives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and which has targeted Iran, and which has destroyed the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution, and the civil liberties that they guarantee. And the piece of lying excrement, Rafid al-Janabi, is proud that he brought Saddam Hussein’s downfall at such enormous expense.
Now that Rafid al-Janabi is revealed in the Guardian interview, how safe is he? There are millions of Iraqis capable of exterminating him for their suffering, and tens of thousands of Americans whose lives have been ruined by Rafid al-Janabi’s lies.
Why does the U.S. government pursue Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for telling the truth when “Curveball,” whose lies wiped out huge numbers of people along with America’s reputation, thinks he can start a political party in Iraq? If the piece of excrement, Rafid al-Janabi, is not killed the minute he appears in Iraq, it will be a miracle.
So we are left to contemplate that a totally incompetent American government has bought enormous instability to its puppet states in the Middle East, because it desperately wanted to believe faulty “intelligence” from Germany that an immoralist provided evidence that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
And America is a superpower, an indispensable nation.
What a total joke!
Burn Your School!
WASHINGTON – The Libertarian Party criticizes the Obama administration’s recent statement demanding more military spending from House Republicans.
The administration claims that the Republican spending bill currently under debate does not provide enough military funding. According to the administration, “The bill…would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the Department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements.”
As a percentage of GDP, military spending under Obama has been higher than it was during any year of the hawkish George W. Bush administration.
Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle said, “Apparently the Republican spending bill isn’t military-friendly enough for President Obama.
Hinkle continued, “Liberals are supposed to want schools, not bombs, but Obama wants all the bombs he can get.
“The Republican bill actually increases Defense Department spending 1-2% over 2010 levels, but the administration calls that a reduction.
“Liberals and Democrats, as well as independents and Libertarians, should call out the president and demand that he cut military spending, not increase it.
“Nobody expected Republicans to offer significant cuts to military spending, but I thought liberal Democrats like Obama were supposed to be different. Apparently the president is more interested in handing out gigantic contracts to his friends in the defense industry.
“Libertarians believe that America should set an example of freedom and respect for other nations by withdrawing our military from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as many other countries where we have forces stationed today. The Libertarian vision of a humble foreign policy would allow us to cut military spending dramatically.”
Good for them. Read all about it.
by Jack Ross
The neocons are regrettably all too skillful in their use of the big lie — in this case, the maddening whopper that the protesters in Egypt and beyond are carrying out the global democratic revolution proclaimed by George W. Bush. Increasingly, this lie is premised on the bald-faced lie which the neocons are getting away with shockingly easily, that the opposition movement Iran favors regime change toward a secular regime.
Leon Hadar’s new essay, while thought provoking to be sure, is symptomatic of too many intelligent conservatives taking mindless talk of democracy, not just by the neocons to be sure, too seriously. Iran may be an ideal case in point — I would hope that the specter of Egypt would move the ayatollahs to make the pragmatic move of leading by example in bringing the loyal opposition in from the cold. If, as today’s events make clear, heads have to be knocked together to bring this about, so be it.
The specific comparisons to 1848 are certainly interesting, but I’m not at all sure that they’re mutually exclusive to comparisons to 1989 or even 1919. If we are seeing the birth of an Arab world with nominally democratic governments that have thrown off the yoke of the American empire — and this, not “democracy”, is the real issue here — it may be less 1848 than 1648, in which the foundations of an entirely new and unprecedented order are being laid. As a Burkean, I’d like to think that there’s something positive to be said for reform over revolution, if revolutionary upheaval is nevertheless necessary to bring it about. No doubt the Burkean ideal will scarcely ever take place in any of these upheavals, but the new order will surely be somewhere in the mean between that and Hadar’s more pessimistic scenario.
Finally, a related point about Islam and democracy is in order. The program of the Muslim Brotherhood and related movements seem to be the first sproutings of a genuine organic democracy in the Muslim world, coming along roughly the same timeline as democracy did in the history of Christendom at about 1400 years. These will not be liberal democracies as we understand them, but we must remember that the first parliamentary systems of Europe, namely the English and the Dutch, began organized along religious sectarian partisan lines.
That this will come about through a genuinely liberatory advent – the liberation of the Arab world from the American empire, throwing off the last lingering legacy of the ideological horror of the 20th century, is surely an extremely good omen.
by Paul Bonneau
Have you ever wondered what freedom would look like? The big picture, I mean; not just like what it would be like to smoke some pot without being beat up by thugs.
Strangely enough, any realistic picture of freedom will have to include statists in some respect! It’s not like we can take any remaining statists out back and put a bullet in their head; that option, although consistent with statism (at least the more extreme varieties), is not available to us. And it is completely unrealistic to imagine that we can ever convert all statists to support freedom. If we have learned anything about freedom, it is that many if not most people have no use for it, or prefer it in small doses.
Luckily, we don’t need to shoot them or convert them! Divorce is good enough. Statists will always be here, but we don’t have to live with them.
The answer, I believe, is that old notion, that government should be as local as possible. Statist City should have the kinds of laws its population loves and supports. Minarchist Town should have a few, and Anarchyville should have none at all.
This prescription takes into account the fact that people are rarely all one sort of person. No one is perfectly statist, few if any are perfectly anarchist, and virtually everyone changes over time. Doesn’t matter, as long as they live where it suits them.
In a realistic free world, strangely enough, there will be plenty of room for statists, just as today. The only difference is that they will be limited to oppressing themselves, not us. And for many of them, maybe even most of them, that will be good enough. Most statists want people in their immediate vicinity to be controlled, not everyone on earth. It’s more the ruling class that wants the latter.
Of course, secession will be necessary. We can’t have the feds telling us what to do. Bad enough that after secession, the states will still want to do the same thing. Clearly there must be a devolution of governance to the lowest possible level. It will be a long process.
But the funny thing is, many statists support this notion that government should be as local as possible–which means we can recruit them for this effort! One-size-fits-all government does not make them any more happy than it makes us.
I was once involved with battling the teaching of religious ideas such as Creationism in government schools. Once I completely gave up on government schools and joined the homeschooling community, I found people there whose worldviews I had been battling before, living in nearly complete harmony. Once people realized they could pass their worldview to their own children, all need for battle disappeared. They didn’t care that other parents’ children were learning strange notions, just as long as their own children weren’t.
“Love It Or Leave It”? We should adopt this slogan. It is threatening only if “leave it” means getting kicked out of America (and going where, exactly?). When all it means is moving down the road 20 miles, what’s the problem? It’s not a problem at all; it’s a solution!
Another group of statists believe we should “Honor Diversity.” OK then, let’s be diverse! Diverse in governance (or lack thereof). They too should be able to get behind this idea of local governance.
I’m fully in agreement with Stefan Molyneux’s notion that the first thing to be freed is yourself, in your personal relationships. But having done that, still there is an advantage to not being thrown in jail for wanting to smoke a little pot, or for buying a gun.
As a side note, the question might come up, how anarchy can be maintained in Anarchyville, since apparently nothing prevents statists moving there? The answer is shunning. Most statists will get the message that they should live with “their own kind.” Societal pressures will generally point in this direction.
Lately I have adopted this position in my internet forum discussions. At the end, after having made the case for freedom, I always say something like, “If you want socialist health care, then have it. I hope you get what you want. But in return, you should allow me to get what I want. We should not be forced to take one system or another; we should be able to choose based on our location (for example). Socialist health care for socialists, and no government health care for freedom-lovers.” Interestingly, most people seem satisfied with this. If they weren’t, they would be backed into a corner, having to advocate imposing on others, which is a tad less easy than “health care is a human right.” Most statists at this point either agree, or keep their mouths shut. And more to the point, the observers of the argument take notice.
It is a hell of a lot less threatening to a statist to think the freedom we envision still includes a place for them–a place even more suited to them, in fact, than what they have right now. They don’t have to imagine freedom being shoved down their throats. They don’t have to imagine putting up with donkey sex in the neighbor’s front yard, or whatever other absurd paranoid fantasy they might have about it.
A corollary to this is the realization that anyone working to impose freedom from the national level is less than helpful, even counterproductive, to our cause. Forceful homogenization of people’s desires is wrong no matter who does it. The only thing that should happen at the national level is the devolution of power downward.
My motto these days is “Let Statists be Statists. Just don’t make me part of it.”
Of course for this to work, freedom-lovers must be willing to move to a place that is free. It’s no help to remain 10% of the local population everywhere. Freedom lovers must concentrate their populations to some extent. There are the obvious state level efforts going on these days: Free State Project in New Hampshire, Free State Wyoming, and others such as Alaska, Montana and so forth. And there are efforts at concentrating different varieties of statists too, such as Vermont and Southern Secession movements (Texas and South Carolina). At least they could be characterized as statist, although they might object to be called that. All these things are good, if only we can support them with our own movement. “Love it or leave it,” folks. If you don’t leave it, you must love it. If you won’t even put out the modest effort to move toward freedom, then what good are you?
State-level concentration is good; so is community-level concentration. But whichever you prefer, please get off your duff and do it.
It occurs to me that a rough approximation of this state of affairs might even exist already, right in the middle of our rotten, fading empire. Anarchyville might be here, somewhere, already. State law may mandate a town have a sheriff, but nothing prevents that sheriff from being a figurehead, or “forgetting” to enforce laws. It doesn’t take a revolution to make this happen; it only takes concentration. It takes people who love freedom enough to move to the right place.
Anarchism builds on the proposition that smaller communities, growing outward from the sovereign individual, ought to determine for themselves the parameters of governing social mores. “Any decentralized, post-state society … ,” teaches the work of Kevin Carson, “is likely to be a panarchy,” a diverse patchwork of contrastive but mutually-respectful legal and social systems.
Accounting for the wide variations between ways that society might be voluntarily ordered and constructed without coercive authority or hierarchy, this pluralistic idea makes statelessness a starting point; it leaves to cooperative associations of free people what Benjamin Tucker called the “constructive work” of actually getting down to solving society’s problems, to confronting them without the albatross of the state.
Anarchism doesn’t contemplate a Utopia, society without crime or unjustified force, but it does urge that we do away with the grant of authority that we now give the state to carry out criminal acts in the name of “the People.” As dissatisfied Algerians and Yemenis are violently disbanded, sent back to their homes to endure the villainy of their countries’ elites, anarchism offers the promise of justice. If the people of Algiers and Sanaa are willing to tune out the state’s bans on their peaceful, public gatherings, they are more than capable of recognizing just how arbitrary and needless the rest of the state’s prohibitions against consensual behavior are.
Their guns, their armored tanks, their statutory paper tigers — all of these are impotent faced with the irrepressible spirit of voluntary, civil society, of a force opposite what Frank Chodorov styled the state’s “spirit of conquest.” Northern Africa and the Middle East have been blighted for generations by the legacies of foreign, colonial rules, and their revolutions have sought autonomy and self-rule in the face of imperialism. The revelation of anarchism is that all of statism is imperialism, external rule imposed by one group on another.
As Franz Oppenheimer and Albert Jay Nock so well understood, “[t]he State originated in conquest and confiscation,” never for “any other purpose” but “continuous economy exploitation.” The subjects of statism from Algeria and Yemen to Canada and the United States — the exploited — have no reason at all to identify with our captors. We ought instead to look on them as foreign invaders, to look at their state’s culverts of power as an empire occupying civil society.
It may be that the Yemeni statesman speaks the same language, has the same culture, and prays to the same God as the Yemeni common man, but the former is as foreign to the latter as any colonial governor. BBC News reported that an estimated 30,000 riot police were cut loose on the crowds in Algiers on Saturday, but the country is home to almost 35 million.
All over the world, the tiny minority of exploiters who laze about collecting from the industry of productive people balance their power on the constant, if latent, threat that free people may — as Orwell described it — shake them off as a horse shakes off flies. Unlike the invasive garrisons of the state, its outposts all around otherwise thriving society, anarchism is for everyone rather than for some. It invites everyone to provide for herself through honest, nonviolent exchange and prohibits nothing but invasion.
Society’s power has been dormant under the bondage of statism, but it is the greater power. As Étienne de La Boétie wrote, “Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.”
In press commentary on the recent events in Egypt, there were frequent expressions of concern that Egypt might be falling into “anarchy.” “Anarchy,” in conventional journalistic usage, means chaos, disorder, and bloodshed — a Hobbesian war of all against all — that occurs when the stabilizing hand of government is removed. “Anarchy” is the agenda of mobs of kids in black circle-A t-shirts, smashing windows and setting stuff on fire.
But “anarchy,” as the term is understood by anarchists, is a form of society in which the state is replaced by the management of all human affairs through voluntary associations. Paul Goodman argued that it was impossible, through violence, to impose an anarchistic order on society, or to achieve a free society by replacing an old order with a new one. Rather, a free society results from “the extension of spheres of free action until they make up most of the social life.” Or to quote Gustav Landauer: “The State is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another… We are the State and we shall continue to be the State until we have created the institutions that form a real community.”
And we saw a great deal of anarchy in Egypt in recent days, in that sense. The people of Egypt have made a great start towards extending the spheres of free action, contracting new kinds of relationships between human beings, and creating the institutional basis of a real community.
Despite the poice state’s attempts to promote religious dissension and divide the opposition, Coptic Christians have stood watch over Muslims during their daily times of prayer. Muslims, likewise, guarded the perimeter of Liberation Square during a Coptic mass.
The resistance organized patrols to safeguard shops and museums from looting, and to watch over neighborhoods from which the security forces had been withdrawn. Meanwhile, as it turned out, most of the actions of violence and looting were false flag operations, carried out by security forces posing as protestors. So the functionaries of the state were the actual sources of violence and disorder; law and order emerged from anarchy — that is, from voluntary association.
The interim leader, Vice President Omar Suleiman — the object of so much hope on the part of neoconservative partisans of “stability” and “order” — is a torturer and a collaborator with the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. Never forget: For every dubious example of an alleged “bomb-throwing anarchist,” like those at Haymarket, there are a million bombs thrown by governments. For every innocent person harmed by an alleged anarchist in a rioting mob, there are a thousand people tortured or murdered in some police dungeon, or ten thousand slaughtered by death squads in the countryside. For every store window broken by demonstrators, there are untold thousands of peasants robbed of their land in evictions and enclosures by feudal elites.
The people of Egypt have managed to throw out one tyrant. Now they find themselves under a military dictatorship which may or may not wind up reducing the level of tyranny. But if the Egyptian people find the new boss as oppressive as the old one, says Molinari Institute President Roderick Long, they know how to get rid of him.
If there is any real hope for the future, in the long run, it is in the anarchy that the people have built for themselves on the streets. There’s an old phrase that’s popular among the Wobblies, or Industrial Workers of the World: “building the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.” The Egyptian people have made a fair start toward doing just that. May the seeds of anarchy which were planted in the recent uprising continue to germinate and grow.
Sign up here. Thanks to Miles Joyner for setting it up.
There is no way that you can overthrow the Jones-Teague clique, for this clique is entrenched in power. And behind this clique lie the fusionist gurus: the Buckleys, and Rushers, and Meyers. And behind them lie the real power in YAF – the moneybags, the wealthy business men who finance and therefore run the organization, the same moneybags who reacted hard a few years ago when some of your leaders decided to take a strong stand against the draft.
When YAF was founded, on the Buckley estate at Sharon, Connecticut, there was heavy sentiment among the founders against the title, because, they said, “freedom is a left-wing word.” But the “fusionists” won out, and freedom was included in the title. In retrospect, it is clear that this was a shame, because all that happened was that the precious word “freedom” came to be used as an Orwellian cloak for its very opposite. Why don’t you leave now, and let the “F” in YAF stand then for what it has secretly stood for all along – “fascism”?