A Libertarian Reformation Is Possible: Restoring Libertarianism from Libertinism.
The Success Of The Rothbardians Using The Strategy Of The Marxists: Community and Ideology
The success of the Rothbardians under the leadership of Lew Rockwell in prosthelytizing anarcho-capitalism through education, community-building and information distribution has affected the American political debate — so successfully that they have caused much of the public to identify libertarianism almost exclusively with Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, and Anarcho-Capitalism with Austrian Economics. Neither of which is true, and little more than an appropriation of terms, but an appropriation of terms that demonstrates the power of Lew’s vision of promoting ideology by good marketing, making use of new technology early, building inclusive communities and sponsoring education. Rothbard’s Libertine Libertarianism is no longer on the Randian fringe, or limited to economic radicals, but on the cusp of popular viability — something more traditional organizations can only view with envy. So much envy that they pay him the greatest compliment: imitation. And while the reason for his success is often attributed to his emphasis on technology, his strategy of applying the tactics of the Marxists to libertarianism is largely ignored. Despite the fact that it was both visionary and successful.
But that success has been achieved by fostering passionate ideological sentiments in favor of libertinism – an immoral prescription for a levantine polity that westerners almost universally, and rightfully reject – and not by developing a set of institutional recommendations that would provide practical solutions to problems of American political conflict. In fact, unlike Hoppeian private government advocates who want to replace bureaucracies with insurance companies, or classical liberals who want to restore our procedural institutions, or conservatives who want to restore our normative institutions — Rothbardian anarcho-capitalists simply ignore the problem of formal institutions by trying to create what amounts to an immoral libertine personal religion held by conviction, instead of a set of political institutions held in place by communal and intergenerational habit and commercial and operational necessity. So Rothbardians don’t recommend institutional changes. They learned from the marxists: they don’t even try. To implement change requires power. To obtain power one needs an ideology. An ideology must be more motivating than intellectual to gain numbers, and only rigorously intellectual for its leaders, who must then argue against the leaders of competing ideologies.
Past Ideology: The Problem Of Institutions
But institutions are necessary. Everyone: the progressives and conservatives and anarchists, attempts to create homogenous norms through the force of legislation — or in case of the anarchists, the somehow magical prohibition of legislation. Even classical liberal libertarians seem to cling to the belief that they can instill by reason those virtues that lead to a high trust homogenous society into a population despite the contrary evidence that those virtues were an accident of european history due to the church’s prohibition on cousin-marriage, the church’s use of pre-existing roman law thereby creating the rule of law, the natural eugenics and manufacture of the work ethic that were a byproduct by the manorial system. A set of circumstances that will never to be repeated again, and a set of cultural values that are antithetical to most of the world — a good portion of that world and its antithetical cultural value which has migrated to America and which will soon be the majority of the population. Unlike classical liberals, post-rothbard libertarians do not require homogeneity from a population; they only require institutions that allow different factions to conduct voluntary exchanges and to disallow institutions from inhibiting those voluntary transfers.
But we should be clear about this fact: among all the libertarians, despite the fact that misesian praxeology does not account for the opportunity costs we pay in order to establish the norm of property, despite Rand’s ability to give form and argument to the heroism of commercial virtues, and despite the fact that Rothbards ethic is inimicable to the lower classes, and as such cannot gain even their least accommodating, tacit consent, despite the fact that to conservatives and progressives alike the very premise of rothbardian individualism is anti-social and morally objectionable, and despite the fact that the enfranchisement of women in particular, and the lower classes more generally, has made liberty a minority proposition in the electorate because of no other reason than instinctual differences in mating behaviors writ large, no other libertarian other than Hoppe has contributed to the solution of the institutional problem of bureaucracy. The first problem of government is bureaucracy. And only the Hoppeians have given us a solution to the problem of government: insurance companies not bureaucracies.
In fact, the classical liberal wing, and the conservatives, have done nothing of note: All libertarian progress, even those policies that were adopted by conservatives as convenient tactics to delay the progressives, in order to protect their social norms were not provided by classical liberals: The argument against socialism by mises. The compromise economic solutions provided by Friedman, The philosophical argument provided by Rothbard, the utilitarian argument provided by Hayek.
Ideology can gain interest. Intellectuals can assist the passionate in gaining power. But once in power, holding power requires solutions. And political solutions come, not in the desire for homogeneity of belief against instinctual preferences, but in the form of institutions that allow people of different political preferences to cooperate despite their different preferences — and institutions that prohibit the mandate that those preferences be homogenous.
So, without a program of institutional changes aren’t we stuck with Classical Liberal institutions? And, if classical liberal institutions have already failed to protect our property rights, even when the population was more homogenous in its mythology, values, mating patterns, genders and races, then why would a return to classical liberalism preserve our rights? Don’t we need to update classical liberalism in order to incorporate what we’ve learned over the past few centuries?
THE LIBERTARIAN REFORMATION
Right now, we libertarians are participating in the Libertarian Reformation. When the Bleeding Heart Libertarians formed, I was sure that the Rothbardian solution had peaked, the Randian era had declined into irrelevance, and the thought leadership was searching for a political program for the maturing generations. But that the movement would remain stuck in an attempt to gain converts by reason, ignoring the value of ideology, rather than gain converts by ideology and education and develop rational solutions that solve material problems which must be solved by institutions.
The Rothbardians, the Hoppeians, the Hayekians, the Bleeding Heart Libertarians, the classical liberal libertarians, and the economic conservatives, are all trying to propagate a system of sentiments that is homogenous enough that we can obtain some sort of political power — enough power with which we might enact some sort of policy more suited to our preferences.
Cato, which seems perpetually behind the trend in the popular movement — largely because they see their audience as policy makers, not the next generation of young voters, and who wants to remain a bridge with conservatives, and retain their access to the republican party — has launched libertarianism.org. Albeit without much attention.
Quietly I believe, everyone is catching up to the use of technology, and if the attraction of intellectuals to different alliances is a measure of future ideas, then the Rothbardians will be successfully marginalized as the movement matures, assuming the different libertarian groups can somehow take over leadership — demonstrating in think tanks that like business, the money is not necessarily made by inventors who cannot transitoin to scale, but by distributors who copy the good ideas of inventors, precisely because they know how to scale, if not invent anything.
This reformation is partly the result of generational turnover – aging Baby Boomers and dying of members of the Silent Generation are being replaced by maturing members of the ‘Jones generation’ which consists of elder children of the 70’s technocrats like myself, Jobs, and Gates, and rising interest by the X, Y, and upcoming Millennial generations reacting to their perception of the state of affairs as possibly depriving them of their childhood dreams.
It is also partly driven by demographic stresses as protestants in particular, and whites in general become a minority and grasp for an identity that is no longer national, but out of necessity returns to natural tribal identities because of our instincts for group membership, and a group membership in a nation that is denied under multiculturalism. The only surprise has been the formation of new castes (genetic classes that reflect economic class) by the upper middle class, and by elites that have abandoned traditional society entirely by obtaining ostensibly ideological educations, living and thinking within isolated progressive enclaves.
And the reformation is partly driven by practical political frustration as the polarization of political discourse due in no small part to the integration of the formerly conservative south into its natural home in the republican party. And reinforced our ability to select information sources from the media that confirm our sentimental and cultural biases.
The Lingering Problem In Economics
With the dismantlement of morality along with the institution of organized religion, economics has usurped morality as a means of all political decision making. Further, libertarianism is fundamentally an economic philosophy both in its origins as a revolution in moral thinking under classical liberalism, and in its more technocratic political philosophy today.
But economics currently consists of four or five different branches, each touting as truth whatever methodology that they use, and each methodology used benefits a different portion of society. The lower classes, the government, the entrepreneurial class, or the financial sector.
To make matters worse, despite the long-term predictions of the conservatives, and the short term ambitions of the progressives, the truth is, that economics is a young field of study, lacking sufficient data across a long enough period of time, for any of the branches to claim validity of their method.
It is possible that ALL FOUR GROUPS ARE RIGHT about their policy recommendations. It is even likely that all four are right. It is simply unlikely that we can create a political system that can implement policy along that spectrum. Not because of the affect each of them has on the economy. But because the affect that each of them has on empowering or disempowering the government to interfere with our social lives. So, it’s possible to CONCEIVE of a political system that will make use of the entire spectrum of tools. It’s just not practically possible to implement it.
Why? Because the short term tactical approach favors consumption and redistribution while the long term favors innovation and concentration. And without a systemic and procedural means of balancing those two political extremes, it is not possible for the different advocates to compromise on policy.
A thought experiment might help: Let’s pretend we have four houses of government that roughly correspond to ‘The Fiscal House (Keynesians)’, ‘The Monetary House’ (Monetarists), ‘The Industrial Policy House’ (neoclassicals), and the ‘Human Capital House’ (Austrians). And we have an executive branch that can only execute bills that are approved by all four houses. These houses cannot create laws in the sense that they cannot create binding obligations over the long term. They can only ‘print’, borrow, and allocate fixed amounts of money over fixed time periods with defined dates of conclusion. In that model, all four houses would have to compromise with one another in order for policy to be enacted.
The reason the different camps cannot agree on policy is that each side is actually trying to constrain the other’s political not economic preferences and can only do so by advocating their methodology at the extremes. It’s a winner-take-all proposition.
Our Reformation Can Choose Its Path
In this reformation, we have choices. We can choose the anarchists’ route — which because it’s ideological, is effective, and is effective because it aims at accumulating political power more so than providing institutional solutions. We can choose the classical liberal route. Which is the solution the conservatives advocate, as well as do the classical liberal libertarians — if only we can talk enough that we can somehow convince diverse americans to be more virtuous like we supposedly are. A statement that if uttered aloud shatters even the most willful suspension of disbelief. Or we can choose to correct our institutions– to take avantage of what we libertarians have learned over the past century about human nature, about cultural differences, about economics, and the weaknesses of our political system.
Each group can continue to press its strategy — anarchic society, private government, classical liberal representative government, or neo-classical libertarian solutions more tolerant of redistributive sentiments, in the hope that different messages appeal to different pools of voters. We can attempt to gain power through coalescing behind candidates for office rather than on specific platforms regardless of candidate — when supporting platforms demonstrably doesn’t often succeed — becuse, counterintuitively, specifics are often easily criticized, while sentiments are not. The benefit of seeking power rather than marketing solutions is that it’s easier to communicate the message, easier to build a sentimental community, harder to criticize, and the messy administrative details necessary to execute can be left for later. And that failure to have a plan is precisely why political execution fails once new groups come to power. Because when you do get the power you seek, differences become visible, factions feel equally betrayed, and infighting destroys the previous unity and collapses the means by which you obtained power: community.
OUR CLASSICAL LIBERAL INSTITUTIONS
Institutions matter. The classical liberal institutions that were designed to protect our freedoms failed. They failed partly because they made assumptions about the static and supposedly permanent nature of social institutions. They failed partly due to lack of precision and detail in the wording. They failed partly because they did not defend sufficiently against more effort put into the circumvention of their rules, than into using the avenues which they had created for voluntary modification of the constitution.
The Constitution and the Courts
The constitution was too weak, and it allowed antagonists to achieve through the courts what they could not accomplish in the legislature. What the constitution required be achieved through the amendment process was put into place by the courts, and what the constitution required that we achieve through a constitutional convention was put through by the courts. The court has served as a means of conducting violence against the rule of law, rather than a protector of it.
The separation of the houses by class into the commons (farmers) and commerce (senate) was destroyed, at the time when our only real similarity with one another — as small business farmers and shopkeepers — was rapidly declining, thereby setting the institutional framework that would force us into inescapable class warfare. And through these various debasements of our constitution by the courts and the legislature they destroyed the constitution itself and the rule of law with it.
Society consists of both social classes and economic classes. Implementing a legislature under the premise of classless democracy violated the English insight that classes could cooperate through the houses of government, and could not do so without them — a fact which we Americans have demonstrated with profound clarity. Instad of undermining the senate, if anything, a house of ‘labor’ should have been added to the government in order to give the newly enabled proletariat access to services, and the labor class access to juridical defense. Instead, the entire government was handed over to the proletariat via democracy and the middle and upper classes had no choice but to resort to extra-political means of self defense — effectively abandoning the society and government to a future of pervasive class warfare and special interest corruption.
The Mistaken Concept Of Separating Church and State Rather Than Services Of Church And State
The founders could not imagine the church, its teachings and its public services, disappearing from the political landscape. When they said ‘separation of church and state’ they would have included in the concept of the church the delivery of education, health care, assistance to the poor, and other social services had they known of the possibility and impact of Darwin. In their view, the purpose of the government is to regulate conflicts, not provide services. Our constitution failed to address that issue because it was inconceivable to the authors. As such we have united church and state in all but written mythology, and violated our constitution’s assumptions against uniting church and state if not violating its explicitly language in the process.
The problem is that there need be no exchange or contract levied for services between heavy producers and heavy consumers, and since the majority of the population controls the legislature, it concerns itself almost entirely with services and very little with competitiveness and productivity and property rights.
The Failure To Account For The Impact of Different Reproductive Strategies
If the abuse of the constitution from the courts was our first failing. If a failure to articulate the meaning of the separation of church (services) and state (diputes) is our second failing. Then our third failing was a failure to modify our institutions to accomodate the addition of women to the voting pool. The founders did not account for the difference in political preferences due to the difference in reproductive strategies between men and women, the breaking of the multi-class house system was our greatest mistake. THey could not foresee that the industrial revolution would free women from much of their drudgery, allow them to obtain an education, and participate in the work force. And while the recognized that women have less political and more familial political sentiments, they would not have understood that adding women to the voting pool would result not in laws that made them equal to men, but that by the passion of their interests, and greater numbers of participation, and longer lives, that they would seek rents not only against the government, but against men themselves, and would willingly destroy the freedoms men had fought for over the millennia.
So we have taken a homogenous protestant english speaking upper class male minority administering a homogenous, predominantly agrarian population, where the lower classes are uneducated and largely illiterate, and transformed it to a heterogeneous multicultural, multi-racial, multi-gender, street-fight where the races are subject to constant status signal pressures, the majority of cultures have inbreeding and tribal mating patterns, and inbreeding and tribal loyalties, and gender reproductive strategies which are highly consumptive and egalitarian (if not dysgenic) and that are in permanent conflict with the homogenous political system that was put in place– thereby making decisions ont those of choosing priorities among similar preferences, but instead, where all decisions are polarized not because of reason, as they would be between farmers, but because of biological sentiments that are entirely counter to the very system of political conflict resolution that the operate within.
People this diverse cannot agree on any problem involving scarcity and transfers. They can only agree to those policies that ignore scarcity and enable transfers. Because they do not have similar enough interests. And those interests if marginal, are conducted on genetic or biological grounds rather than collective grounds.
IDEOLOGICAL BLIND SPOTS
All ideologies contain blind spots. Progressives, socialists, and marxists, are blind to incentives and scarcity in economics, and they are intentionally blind to differences in ability, and the value of those differences in ability.
The conservatives and progressives both are blind to the fact that political sentiments reflect the differences in reproductive strategies between men and women, and that these sentiments have serious implications for their genes – the very reason we exist. As such, it is not possible by argument, nor preferable by political violence, to convert opponents to ones belief: we actually need these opposing views.
The libertarian blind spot is that the majority of people do not want freedom. They want the result of it. They want consumer comforts. Freedom consists as much in self-denial as it does in self expression. THey do not want to work at self denial. But only at self expression.
LIBERTARIAN INSTITUTIONAL SOLUTIONS
But what libertarians offer themselves, the progressives and the conservatives, is an institutional framework in which we do not have to convert one another in order to live in the world we each desire: we simply need a government that, like the market, conducts exchanges, rather than takings and givings. We need a government of contracts, not a government of laws. We do not need laws that persist and which can be broken by the next legislature, we need contracts that cannot be broken by any legislature, but which expire in a short period of time, when specific criteria are finished. We do not need extra-market bureaucracies and their unintended but unavoidable corruption, with the government as the insurer of last resort, we need insurance companies that are not given corporal privileges and immunity, and a government that is only an insurer of last resort to the citizens. Whether we even need representative government is questionable. There is no reason why, given current technology, we cannot directly vote for initiatives, and therefore make lobbying and rent seeking almost impossible. At the top of society we certainly do not. At the bottom of society it may be a necessity due to limitations on time and effort. But if we are to have representatives, lottocracy defeats democracy in preventing corruption.
BUT WHO CAN UNITE THE FACTIONS?
No libertarian or Libertine organization can unite the factions today. That is because the libertine fallacy is a failure. It is merely an individual communist manifesto rather than a collectice one.
Unfortunately there are problems with any strategy of uniting different groups. Some libertarian anti-reformation forces are financial: each party will commit the innovator’s dilemma by protecting their donor pool instead of pursuing the new donor pool that would be available in far larger numbers, if the message were able to become more mainstream. Also, there is a lot of bad blood between the people in some of these organizations, and our generation and the one that follows it, must leave that history behind. After all, it’s pretty meaningless to the rest of us why someone did or did not like Cato, or the NEI, or why the GMU crowd pridefully argues with the Anarchists in an attempt to promote the superiority of their ideas.
I also feel that funding for radical anarchists will decline rapidly with the current generation, as the people who grew up combating socialism and social democracy (democratic secular redistributive humanism) are replaced with the people who seek freedom and identity for its own sake. Further, I suspect that this period of economic discomfort and social polarization will continue in concert with the changes in racial and cultural composition, as well as changes in urban density. And that in that environment libertarian sentiments among some set of groups will continue to expand. As such I think both Rothbard’s memory, and Misesian insights, can be best preserved by expanding inclusion of other groups by an annual scholarly reality show which because of its popularity attracts investors, rather than a declining rothbardian extremism that has lost its relevance due to its own success. There is no reason one has to run a single sports team instead of an entire league of sports teams.
Either way, some group will obtain enough funding to be able to accomplish this goal. But given the history, I don’t see it easily done by anyone else. It’s a purely administrative problem by people who understand both community and education, and marketing and fundraising.
THE EXPLANATORY POWER OF PROPERTY RIGHTS AND VOLUNTARY EXCHANGE
Libertarians understand the explanatory power…… and that social cooperation and coordination is provided by property rights and voluntary exchange. But some libertarian ideas are a justification for a prohibition on organizing in large groups. But we do not need to prohibit humans from organizing in order to concentrate capital, even if they seek to establish and police a marketplace. The question only arises when those activities seek involuntary transfers from others. Libertarians know how to create Institutions allow people to cooperate toward different ends and means as long as they do not use theft, fraud or violence, and do not seek rents (corruption) or seek to create obstacles (corruption) to voluntary exchanges. Libertarians understand the explanatory power of the propertarian ethical system, and have spent decades thinking through the implications. Even if they do not equally understand that the reason that property has such explanatory power, is that property is a biological feature of human beings without which we could not exist — albiet, the variety with which humans allocate communal, shareholder, and private property is nearly endless.
It is that variety of property definitions, and the difference in the distribution of necessary and competing mating strategies between the genders, that determines many of those property definitions — with the masculine preferring that we err on the private and the feminine preferring that we err on the communal, and the libertarian preferring that we err on the side of shareholder constructs that do not oppress one another regardless of those different preferences.
It is possible to create a set of institutions that repair the failings of classical liberal society. I believe Hoppe’s insight is that insurance companies can perform all regulatory functions, and do a better, cheaper and faster job of it. I believe Hayek was right about the importance of a hard constitution with the rule of law that limits the government, and a judiciary that relies upon discovery in common law, and that government as we understand it is almost irrelevant if we have those protections. I also believe that it is possible to use fiat money and monetary policy (if not Keynesian spending as currently conceived) if we create sufficient institutional protections in those institutions, and I believe those protections are something we now understand.
WE ARE ALL SHAREHOLDERS NOT JUST SEVERAL PROPERTY OWNERS
Community property is no longer possible. In a village it is possible to measure overconsumption (privatization of public goods — or in the case of shareholder property, violation of the shareholder agreement.) In a complex economy such observations are impossible. We must rely on tools that let us calculate the transfer of resources within those interactions using numbers. We cannot sense those transfers without the power of numbers to provide us with information beyond our perceptions. And they help us to correct our perceptions when they fail us. Community property cannot exist where individual actions are not observable and measurable against the actions of all others. We all cheat the market now and then. The unwed mother conducts an involuntary transfer: she makes irresponsible mating decisions that she expects others to pay for, and her actions are irrevocable since we cannot ‘unmake’ the child without violating the principle that supersedes our principle of property rights. The concentration of capital in order to create scarcity and raise prices is just a more complex transfer of the same kind. As such, community property must disappear in favor of shareholder property – the ownership of and interest in which is calculable and traceable. Morality is a nice word for preventing ‘cheating’. For morality to exist we must be able to sense it. to sense it we must be able to quantify it. And that means that community property is forever forbidden to us.
Limited Redistribution that Varies With Productivity Is Justified – Or Property Fails It’s Self-Test
I also believe, along with the Bleeding Heart libertarians (despite the fact that even with Roderick Long on board, they don’t have an articulated solution — or apparently, even a coherent logic to their ideas as does Hoppe) that according to Hoppian/Rothbardian/Misesian ethics, that the institution of property is a NORM that is paid for by citizens with a multitude of daily forgone opportunities for theft fraud and violence. And therefore anyone who pays for entrance into the market by respecting the constitution, rule of law, and who forgoes opportunity for theft, fraud, violence, and corruption (seeking rents, or blocking due process), and who buys his way into the society if an immigrant — is due his share of ‘dividends’ from the share he has earned by forgoing those opportunities and buying his way into the market that we call society. Albiet we all are due equal dividends, regardless of income or lack of it, so progressivity remains a property of income not one of dividends.
Markets Were Made By Shareholders, They Didn’t Evolve By Accident
And perhaps more importantly, that in the west, where we developed freedom and the rule of law, markets did not evolve: they were invested in and paid for by shareholders, most of whom were warriors, some of whom were merchants, all of whom were consumers. In this sense, there is no ‘natural market’. They are created by people who used force to forbid theft, fraud and violence, in order to profit from it. As such we are today, all shareholders, as long as we do not belong to the bureaucracy (Government workers), seek rents (corporations), conduct blocking (unions), or engage in corruption (financial institutions that profit from distribution of fiat money then socialize the losses), and as long as we do not commit theft, violence or fraud.
The Challenge Of Propertarian Logic
I do not see how this is logic is avoidable if the propertarian ethic is to be based upon praxeological foundations rather than some vague moralistic assumption. A set of assumptions I believe are designed entirely to circumvent the fact that praxeological analysis and property rights must lead one to conclude that redistribution of some sort, albiet fixed and equal, is due to all citizens. That is, unless one states that some sub-group ‘owns’ the market, and that observation of property rights are the means by which we gain right of entry. And that owner must eventually become the state which can dictate our behavior to us in exchange for our very survival in market society.
MULTIPLE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
There are certainly more radical institutional solutions available to us. The anarchic is only possible for a diasporic minority. The night watchman state is only possible in a small population. The Hoppeian private government is entirely possible if the geography is small and the population homogenous. Although none of the small state solution will compensate for problems of gender biases, and cultural breeding differences, they will just ignore them. The limited classical liberal is possible and preferable, but services are now so expansive it’s difficult to see how to get there without warfare. Pulling institutional ideas from Hoppe’s insurance companies into the classical liberal model, then modifying the houses to accomodate the classes, the modify the constitution so that representatives make contracts with one another, not laws. And modifying the constitution so that we return to common law, and rule of law, without fear of stacking the court. And finding a means of testing the court’s judgement for strick compliance with constitutional intent, and requiring constitutional modification by established process rather than judicial modification of the constitution by fiat.
LIBERTARIANS HAVE THE SOLUTION
Libertarians have the answers to institutional problems. These solutions come from analysis of how to use property rights and voluntary agreement within contracts to achieve different ends by different means: helping each other succeed in our objectives despite having different means and objectives. Libertarians simply must promote institutional solutions in order to become mainstream. Freedom alone, as a sentiment, as we libertarians understand it, is a demonstrably minority preference among human beings. However, a libertarian solution to the problem of institutions that allows people with different objectives to cooperate in pursuit of different ends, is possible using libertarian institutional solutions.
That is, unless we’re as dim and dishonest as Saul Alinsky and the Progressives: relying upon power and emotion to achieve what we cannot through the use of reason and by providing solutions.
Note: I have given money to MI. At one time (before I lost millions during a divorce and the recession) I promised to raise a considerable amount of money for them. So I’m not neutral. I’m not ideological. I just understand how they operate as an institution and they really did understand the web, how to use it, and how to create a community far better than anyone else in the space.