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.
Here I am on my post-election gloating tour, with another prediction that’s finally been picked up on by the media. In July, I asked “Is Trump the ‘Asia pivot’ candidate?“, and showed how his candidacy may be the culmination of this major shift in US geopolitics. Well, here’s a sampling of the Google News results on this issue, now that Trump has been elected.
Looks like there’s something to this. He may ease tensions with Russia, while at the same time putting us on a war path with China. Dangerous times!
Looking at the difference between Trump’s and Hillary’s attitudes towards Russia, one can’t help but feel that there’s something deeper going on. Hillary’s hostility to Russia, contrasted with Trump’s amiable gestures, raises the question of what Trump’s objectives are. Or more accurately, those of the team of national security insiders he has assembled, including former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn.
Let’s get this out of the way: it is not non-interventionism, no matter what some libertarians may wish to believe about Trump. These are serious military-industrial complex heavy-hitters in his inner circle. He is not against using American power, he is simply pushing a different agenda from the neocons formerly in power. His well-known antipathy to China may provide a clue. Here’s Trump’s plan to “get tough” on China (there is no “get tough” on Russia plan):
Declare China A Currency Manipulator
End China’s Intellectual Property Violations
Eliminate China’s Illegal Export Subsidies And Other Unfair Advantages
Strengthen the U.S. military and deploying it appropriately in the East and South China Seas
Donald Trump campaign website, July 30, 2016
Increased trade barriers, sparking a possible trade war, combined with amped up military presence in China’s backyard sends a pretty clear signal of Trump’s intentions. This falls in line with the elite foreign policy consensus of an “Asia pivot” in the past few years – away from the Middle East and towards containing a rising China. Let Russia help us mop up ISIS and “radical Islam”, Trump seems to argue, which leaves us free to confront China.
At a press conference a few days ago, Trump said he doesn’t want to see Russia and China “teaming up”. He seems to understand, or has been made to understand, the fears underlying thia Asia pivot. Closer military and economic cooperation between Russia and China presents a major stumbling block to Western globalist hegemony. The election contest between Trump and Hillary can be seen as a contest between the foreign policy realist “pivot” faction and the anti-Russia neocons. Far from ushering in an era of non-interventionism, Trump would merely shift the target of American power.
Since Trump and Putin seem to like each other, is it likely that a President Trump’s newly-befriended Russia would throw Edward Snowden under the extradition bus?
Let’s see what Trump has said about Snowden.
I think Snowden is a terrible threat, I think he’s a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country — you know what we used to do to traitors, right?
The Washington Times, July 2, 2013
When you just asked the question about Snowden, I will tell you right from the beginning, I said he was a spy and we should get him back. And if Russia respected our country, they would have sent him back immediately, but he was a spy. It didn’t take me a long time to figure that one out.
Newsweek, March 4, 2016
Here’s what Putin has said about Trump.
[Donald Trump is] a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt. It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race. … He says he wants to move on to a new, more substantial relationship, a deeper relationship with Russia, how can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.
The Political Insider, December 17, 2015
And what Trump said of Putin.
It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.
CNN, December 17, 2015
With warmed relations, Snowden may quickly lose his value as a geopolitical “trump” card and find himself on a one-way flight to Guantanamo. Maybe he should start country shopping?
Libertarians living off tax money is unethical, but it’s an even bigger practical problem. It shows that living without the government teat is impossible, that living on theft is the only way. It is philosophically damaging to the idea of a voluntary society. It is also bad marketing to people who ask questions like “who will build the roads?”
There will never be a day when we simply “get rid of government”, such that everything is perfectly free. This is because no one wants to be the first to give up their government goodies. Just as unilateral free trade is better than mutual protectionism, unilateral voluntarism is better than mutual theft. We can only ever get rid of government by showing, in practical terms, how to make a living without it.
Is it difficult? Extremely! Will it mean less money and fewer opportunities than working for the government? Yes! That is the price of advancing liberty. Many people are not up to the task. But then don’t blow hot air about liberty, if you are unwilling to do what is required to bring it about. It reeks of hypocrisy. The pioneers of liberty are the ones who show how to make a living, or even be rich, without stolen tax money. If they show the way, others will follow, simply because it’s in their self-interest. And isn’t that what we say motivates people, rather than abstract principles that contradict their daily reality?
I had a couple of objections to my argument that living off the government is unethical.
First, if accepting a government wage is unethical, then using the roads must also be unethical.
But this is not the case if one uses the net tax payer vs. net tax taker standard. Using the roads is simply redeeming what was stolen from me. Earning a government wage is 100% theft.
What about using the roads without having paid any taxes? Should the government compel this person to pay taxes in order to justify using the roads?
If one looks at the road as just a pile of stolen money, the ethical way to remedy a theft is to split the money proportionally to what was stolen, and return the money to the victims. Since the road cannot be split physically, its use may be split, effectively as usage vouchers, for the expected lifetime of the road that was built from that theft. In other words, privatized.
The person who infringes on the use of the road without having had anything stolen in the first place, is infringing on the usage of the people who were stolen from. He would be responsible for compensating those privatized owners, not for paying new taxes, i.e. new thefts committed against him.
This standard is consistent with not accepting any of the government’s stolen loot, unless, and only in the amount that, one was stolen from.
A corollary objection is, doesn’t this imply a need for government borders, since illegals use roads without having paid taxes?
Punishing people collectively is not justified, just because they are foreigners. Furthermore, no one has commited any violations prior to crossing the border, so no a priori punishment is justified. Many end up working and having money stolen from them. However, any who do receive more from the government than was stolen from, are also stealing, the same as Americans who do so. So, there is no categorical difference between Americans and foreigners. No national border is justified, any more than any arbitrary border within the country.
The second objection is, while it may be unethical to provide services to the government in exchange for stolen money, it is okay to simply receive the money, as in Social Security payments.
If someone steals your car, you can justly recover your car, since you hold the rightful title. If they steal your car and give it to a friend, you can also justly recover your car from their friend, since they do not have any rightful claim on it. It is unethical for the robber’s friend to receive the stolen car.
Similarly, it is unethical to accept stolen money, since the victims have a right to have their money returned, from the money handed out by the government.
If liberty is human nature, then we should see humanity in a state of liberty. It is not in a state of liberty, but one of tyranny, or one of mixed liberty and tyranny. Either tyranny must be an aberration or human nature is not purely suited to liberty.
If tyranny is an aberration, a result of historical circumstance, or a particular person or institution, then eliminating the aberrant factor should let humanity resume liberty. History has shown eliminating the source of tyranny usually leads to a replacement tyranny, oftentimes greater than the original.
Any state, or center of power, gravitates towards greater tyranny over time, until a crisis, and rearrangement of affairs.
Outside the scope of the state, humans gravitate towards liberty, by the pursuit of their desires, by the creation of new forms and methods, by the discovery of new places and avenues.
As groups, humans vacillate between tyranny and liberty, often advancing both at once.
As individuals, humans pursue their own liberty, yet accept tyranny over others, and over themselves, as a price of liberty.
Lowering the price of liberty, easing the pursuit of one’s own ends, makes the individual less accepting of tyranny.
Increasing the price of tyranny makes the individual want to escape, and accept liberty, even if costly.
Liberty is the pursuit of one’s own ends. Tyranny is opposing another’s pursuit of their own ends.
Liberty and tyranny are attitudes. The more one is concerned with their own pursuits, the less they are likely to tyrannize. The more one is concerned with others’ pursuits, the more likely they are to tyrannize.
The key to pursuing liberty as an end in itself is to shift people’s focus to themselves rather than others.
Humans look to control others for some end they value. Their own end, or that of another’s: a god, a king, a state.
If all humans wanted to control others for their own ends, no control would be possible, since it would be nullified in its symmetric pursuit among all humans. Tyranny can only arise by the desire to control for the sake of another.
The mysteries of existence and creation are fashioned into religion. Human virtue and honor are fashioned into a king. Organization and security are fashioned into a state.
The very things that humans value are fashioned into the means of their enslavement. Tyranny is the pursuit of goodness by evil means.
Liberty is the pursuit of one’s ends by one’s own means.
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”.