private property open borders

Private property means open borders

There’s been a lot of discussion in the libertarian crowd about Trump’s immigration policy and whether libertarians should support open borders.  The tension is between the ideal of freedom of movement, in the context of private property, versus the practical effect that importing many people costs taxpayers money and may lead to voting for more government.

Supposedly a private property society would result in border property owners blocking immigrants, but as my cover meme shows, it just takes one to let people through.  So, strictly from an ethical perspective, open borders seems the right choice.  The practical effects in a welfare state democracy are a different issue.  Once you start going down the utilitarianism road though, you use “ends justifies the means” reasoning and eventually end up back at statism.  It seems the best solution, and political compromise, would be to allow open borders on the condition that immigrants receive no government benefits or voting rights.  We’d be slowly importing supporters of a voluntary society!

Clearing land for farming

Blood and Soil and Woods

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.

Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil)

“Blood and Soil” (German: Blut und Boden)

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”.

Bellamy salute

“Bellamy salute”, an American original

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.

Border wall

Border wall (keeping them out, or keeping us in?)

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.”

Hans-Herman-Hoppe-helicopter-communist-anarchocapitalism

Hans Herman Hoppe watches as libertarians drop leftists out of helicopters.

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.

Blood and Soil

“Blood and Soil” Libertarianism: A Response to Jeff Deist

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”.

Hamster wheel

10 reasons why politics is a waste of time

  1. You don’t drain the swamp — the swamp drains you.  The system swallows everyone whole, even someone as audacious as Trump.
  2. To get elected, you need support.  To get support you need to make promises, which often will include statist actions.
  3. You need funding.   People only donate big money if they will see a financial benefit, which usually involves a government privilege.
  4. Even small money makes you more susceptible to pressure, because it’s harder to say “no” to someone who has given you money, even if they want a statist policy.
  5. You have to get along with people: candidates, bureaucrats, civil organizations, unions, the media, voters, etc.  That means not rocking the boat.  Avoiding hard truths.  Not being unpleasant.  It’s hard to get the truth out this way. It’s like trying to put out a burning building with your hands tied behind your back.
  6. Every small compromise leads to a bigger compromise, and so on, until you are fully coopted into the system.  If you accept the premise that a little bit of statist action is okay as long as your end goal is the removal of a bigger statist action, you will never be able to see that you are being coopted.  In your mind, you are fighting the good fight, but in reality you are merely doing the work of the state, with a fun, but hypocritical, marketing plan.
  7. Look at the opportunity cost of doing politics.  How effective is electoral politics, versus media or business?  Lots of energy spent for meager results.
  8. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  Politics is dirty and savage.  The people in it are assholes.  If you get into the game, you have to play hard to win.  That means eventually you have to become as nasty and back-stabbing as your competitors.  How can you avoid it?  By buttering everyone’s bread and going along to get along, i.e. statism.
  9. Winning is losing.  If you win office, you take a salary funded by taxpayers.  That is inherently unethical.  If you forego the salary, you have to make it up otherwise.  If someone funds you, then you are beholden to them, which usually means statism.  If you are independently wealthy, then politics is an awful waste of your time.  You’d be better off buying professional politicians, than being one yourself.  Focus on making more money and funding media and tech ventures to benefit the liberty movement.
  10. Why hasn’t electoral politics tended to increased liberty, but only increased statism?  What fundamental change will happen to reverse this trend?  Politics is structured to produce an increase in state power.  The simple act of being “in power” demands that one exercise power.  If one’s only agenda is to refrain from using power, one will not have it for very long, as someone else will take it.  Seeking power to restrain power is a performative contradiction.
Global left-right politics

The globalization of politics

Something is different in politics recently.  No, not Trump.  I mean the global nature of previously domestic politics.  In the past, there was a superficial awareness of geopolitics and foreign leaders.  But now we have the same emotional, visceral response to other countries’ politicians, that used to be reserved for one’s own.  Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, Merkel, Wilders, Orban, Erdogan — have supporters and detractors across the world.  There even seem to be the rough outlines of political alignment across boundaries, such as Nigel Farage stumping for Trump.

Social media has certainly contributed to this globalization of discourse.  But there is a narrative structure to recent events.  A disaffected, right-wing, populist, global “revolution” against the “establishment” is a unifying thread.  Both sides of the political spectrum are engaging in cross-border alignments.  Is there a deliberate unite-and-rule tactic happening, to drive us into yet another false, left-right paradigm?  This time, it is pushing our consciousness to operate on the global level, rather than the national.

We are to believe that there is suddenly a groundswell of opposition to global governance, simultaneously, worldwide.  This opposition is momentarily winning, but it is painted in the darkest terms, as something that must be defeated.  Perhaps it is just one phase of the dialectic, to get us psychologically prepared for global governance.

Just as with national politics, there is a danger in engaging this new global politics.  It is putting our faith, hope, time and energy into these pantheonic figures, completely removed from our lives, which might as well be cartoon characters on a screen.  We ignore the local, the immediate, the personal.  We should not buy into these false alignments and alliances, as if they are our saviors — a grand revolution around the world.

The real revolution is at home.

Auto scrapyard: cars crushed

Twitterspeak: the shrinkage of language

Twitter is altering language, not just on Twitter, but across all media.  Everything is being compactified; short attention spans demand it.  Among the benefits are brevity, efficiency, and impact.  The downside is the destruction of nuance and precision.  Dropped indefinite articles, sentence fragments, and an explosion of abbreviations and acronyms.  The danger is a form of Newspeak, in which a decrease in expressiveness of language yields a constricting of thought itself.

Will our capacity for conceptualization be limited to the lowest common denominator or will this punchy format lead to communicating new ideas that otherwise would have collected dust in long-form academic essays?

three pirates fighting

Trump split libertarians

The Trump phenomenon has splintered the libertarian movement into three distinct groups.  The massive political realignment taking place has exposed fractures that have existed for a long time.  How will these factions reconcile and will they constitute a unified movement in the future?

Left-libertarians – Typically DC beltway libertarians and wannabe respectable types.  The biggest of the three groups, they are best represented by Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson.  They value left social issues and are animated by anti-racism, gay marriage, and baking of cakes.  They also think Trump is racist and hates women.  Any good that may come from Trump’s challenge of the establishment is overshadowed by his being Pure Evil.

Paleo-conservatives – People like Lew Rockwell and Jeff Deist.  They value nationalism and traditional right views on culture, immigrants, and political correctness.  There is a silver lining to every one of Trump’s totalitarian or economically destructive proposals.

Voluntarists – The smallest faction, with people like Robert Wenzel and James Corbett.  They see Trump as not much different from Hillary or any of the other candidates, and a potential disaster for the country and the libertarian brand.    They tend to point out both the good aspects and terrible aspects of Trump’s proposals.