Right after Jeff Deist’s controversial talk at Mises U, and amidst intense backlash from libertarians, Tom Woods jumped to defend Deist on his podcast. What’s funny is that he plays the entirety of Deist’s speech, yet ignores most of what he said, and ignores legitimate criticisms of it. Instead, he mounts an irrelevant defense of Ron Paul and the Mises Institute and labels anyone who asks questions as “leftists” and “virtue-signallers”.
Let’s get this out of the way: Jeff Deist’s use of the phrase “Blood and Soil” is categorically Nazi symbolism. Jeff Deist is not a Nazi or a fascist, but the phrase is. Given the context of his appeal to “nationalist and cultural alliances”, it is legimitate to question this choice. This is not a leftist criticism; it is a libertarian criticism based on individual rights. At the very least, it is a terrible branding move for the president of the Mises Institute.
Tom brushes off this bizarre choice of words as no big deal. He actually says it’s the same thing as using the idiom “if you want to make an omlette, you gotta break some eggs“. Yeah, because most Americans casually talk about “blood and soil” at the water cooler. (Or maybe casual fascist rallies.)
Then he says that the phrase originated with Oswald Spengler and before that, German Romantics. Well, nobody said the Nazis were original. Obviously they drew on strains of thought that preceded them, including the famous Nazi salute, which was originally the American “Bellamy salute“, and even further back, the “Roman salute“. I guess Tom wouldn’t blink if Jeff ended his speech with a good ole fashioned American “Bellamy salute”.
Do I really need to point out that the Nazis popularized a few ideas, including “Blood and Soil”, which they used extensively in their propaganda materials? It’s like saying the swastika was really a mystical symbol in ancient India, so you’re silly to think it’s a Nazi symbol! Let’s put that mystical symbol in the Mises Institute logo, only “leftists” and “virtue-signallers” will complain.
Even ignoring the Nazi history of “Blood and Soil”, what does this phrase really mean? It’s certainly not about individual freedom. If it was, you’d simply say “individual freedom”. No, this is a call for genetic and geographic collectivism. For “us” versus “them”. For the “right” kind of people versus the “wrong” kind of people. Maybe some people care about “blood and soil”, but what the heck does this have to do with libertarianism?
Tom’s interpretation of it is: “What’s meant here is that there are people, probably a majority of mankind, for whom place and kin still matter. And that maybe we should take this into account in what we’re doing.”
Oh. How should “we” take this into account? What are “we” doing, that “we” should take this into account? Tom is remarkably vague here, which only lends credence to suggestions that maybe Jeff’s speech, and his supporters apologias, are dog whistles and code words for an undisclosed agenda. I mean really, what is Tom talking about here? We’re forced to wonder.
It’s funny that neither Tom nor Jeff mention the Number One issue that has split the libertarian movement since Trump’s election. You know, the issue that has caused a big chunk of libertarians to shift to the alt-right, or even to outright “anarcho-fascism”. A little issue you might have heard of. The BORDER WALL ….??? You know, the whole bit about government seizing private property to build a prison wall along the border and use violent force against peaceful people exercising their freedom of movement? Because the socialist foreigners coming in will vote in more socialism and prevent the formation of a libertarian utopia? I dunno, just thinking it might have something to do with Jeff’s speech.
This seems to be an attempt to win back the alt-right libertarians. But, it’s a short-sighted strategy. The alt-right is not, and never will be, interested in libertarian ideas. They are interested in power and winning, group identity, and “ends justifies the means” thinking (helicopter libertarians). Not exactly fertile ground for individual liberty.
Tom mentions this inconsistency as an argument for why Jeff’s speech was obviously not an appeal to the alt-right. But he misunderstands the alt-right. It is not strictly Nazi, in the sense of political conditions of Germany in the 1930s. But, it shares the same racial collectivist mindset and willingness to use state power. Tom says the alt-right is against decentralization, even favoring the EU (!), whereas the alt-right clearly favored Brexit and favors nationalist secession movements in Europe and the US. The Nazis were militaristic, yet the alt-right seems anti-war, going so far as to criticize Trump for bombing Syria. So, there is some clear overlap with Jeff’s call for “nationalist and cultural alliances”, which he may hope to use to build the libertarian movement.
Tom ignores this possibility. Maybe he feels he’s defending a good friend, which is admirable. Unfortunately, friendship can lead to blind spots that prevent objective assessment. Regarding libertarian ideals, Tom is under the impression that “[Jeff] says these are universal values and rights that we believe in”. Yet Jeff argued the exact opposite, that “universalism is not natural law; in fact it is often directly at odds with human nature and (true) human diversity”. Libertarianism is not available to all humans. “Mecca is not Paris, an Irishman is not an Aboriginal, a Buddhist is not a Rastafarian, a soccer mom is not a Russian.”
Tom further misunderstands the reality of today’s movement by saying that libertarians are too focused on “transgender rights in Saudi Arabia” and “handing out US constitutions in Iraq“. Is he for real? How many libertarians are concerned about those things? Yet he does not mention the one single issue that has divided libertarians this year more than anything else.
Jeff’s speech is the continuation of a disturbing trend in the libertarian movement, away from ethical principles, and towards expediency. Many of these alt-right libertarians, or bordertarians, or libert-aryans, or helicopterians, or Hoppeans, or whatever term you use, think that libertarianism is an end, not a means. It is the beautiful, crystalline utopia that will be achieved after an era of power and bloodshed. It is the naive delusion of all revolutionary creeds. It is the antithesis of what it means to be a libertarian and the betrayal of all the good work that Ron Paul, Jeff Deist, and Tom Woods have done over the years. That’s why Jeff’s speech was so disappointing and why it’s alarming that there was so little opposition to it from the Mises Institute community.
Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute, gave a talk this week, pushing libertarians into alt-right nationalism. His talk is a confused mess and is a reminder that statism will always threaten to infect the liberty movement.
First, he sets up the necessity for political action by attacking technology development as a means of liberation. He says technology doesn’t advance liberty on balance. According to Jeff, only political power can result in libertarianism. Peaceful development of technology, and its voluntary adoption, is politically useless, because it will end up being used by governments to oppress people.
Of course, this is contradicted by hundreds of years of technological progress. Capital markets didn’t arise from a political process. They were a technological innovation, that promoted social liberty regardless of the understanding of the participants. Jeff actually says that the printing press had no net liberating effect on humanity! Do I really need to spell out the massive liberating effect from thousands of years of ignorance and lies, the massive new opportunities available to commoners? But, because it didn’t eliminate government altogether, it doesn’t count. Yet later he says “Better, not perfect, ought to be our motto.” Confused!
This isn’t his only confusion. He poo poos technological optimism as “historical determinism”. Yet in the same paragraph he says technology is useless because globalism is inevitable! Which is it Jeff? Are we to believe we can thwart determinism with politics, but not technology? Talk about naive. Then he calls libertarians “utopian” – confused!
Let’s take a look at Jeff’s mess of confusion and translate it into plain English.
“libertarians have a bad tendency to fall into utopianism”
“[Libertarians want to] give up their outdated ethnic or nationalist or cultural alliances.”
Translation: Libertarians are so silly to believe freedom is the highest political ideal. Actually, it is about “nationalist or cultural alliances”.
“liberty as a deeply pragmatic approach to organizing society”
Translation: Society needs to be “organized” (centrally planned). We need to be “pragmatic”, not principled, meaning we should use state power to achieve our desired ends.
“Better, not perfect, ought to be our motto.”
Translation: Dump liberty principles in the trash so we can use the state to defend “muh culture”.
“Human beings want to be part of something larger than themselves. Why do libertarians fail to grasp this?”
“There is a word for people who believe in nothing: not government, family, God, society, morality, or civilization. And that word is nihilist, not libertarian.”
Translation: Libertarianism isn’t about freedom from coercion. It’s about being part of a collective and believing specific things about society and theology.
“My final point is about the stubborn tendency of libertarians to advocate some of sort of universal political arrangement.”
“Universalism provides the philosophical underpinnings for globalism, but globalism is not liberty: instead it threatens to create whole new levels of government. And universalism is not natural law; in fact it is often directly at odds with human nature and (true) human diversity.”
Translation: Libertarianism doesn’t apply to all humans. It isn’t derived from human nature. It is only suited to white Europeans in the United States.
“Nationalism is on the rise throughout Europe,”
“We should seize on this.”
Translation: Nationalist collectivism is en vogue right now, let’s abandon libertarian principles to ride this momentary popularity. [Wait, I thought the world is moving inevitably towards globalism??]
“Mecca is not Paris, an Irishman is not an Aboriginal, a Buddhist is not a Rastafarian, a soccer mom is not a Russian.”
Translation: Humans are defined by their birthplace and race, as units of a collective identity. Humans are not self-interested individuals who strive to pursue their own happiness.
“self-determination is the ultimate political goal.”
Translation: Self-determination of a national collective, not of the individual. Remember, libertarianism is not accessible to other races or cultures, only white European America.
Note: The breakup of large superstates can be cheered without resorting to national collectivism. The bureaucratization and monopolization of these superstates act to diminish individual freedom. We want competing tax rates and regulatory environments, to allow people alternatives.
But just as technology is not a panacea, neither are national governments. A national breakaway state may impose protectionist tarrifs, whereas a superstate guarantees free trade. A smaller state may also be more tyrannical than the superstate it broke away from, reducing its citizens’ liberty. The sword cuts both ways.
“In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.”
This one takes the cake. Jeff goes with an unambiguous Nazi reference “Blood and Soil” (“Blut und Boden”) to describe his new libertarian values. Not sure if he’s trolling, or just careless, but ultimately it means collectivism, whether based on genetics or the geography of one’s birth. Apparently, libertarian ideas about individual freedom are not as important as we thought. We should not strive to live and promote these values, no matter how difficult. What matters is political “relevance” (power). Sorry Jeff, I’m not interested in this version of “libertarianism”.