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“[Libertarians want to] give up their outdated ethnic or nationalist or cultural alliances.”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”.
Money is a dirty word in the liberty movement. Ironic, for a pro-free-market and free trade ideology. But when theory becomes reality, many recoil at the idea of bloggers doing sales or advertising. Why?
Spending time to make content or technology means taking time away from other activities, whether business or leisure. That time has to be compensated. Yet some act like entitled socialists, expecting this work to be provided for free!
To be fair, some monetization strategies are obnoxious or spammy. But all that means is we need better monetization options. Better technologies. Better feedback and suggestion from audiences of what works and what doesn’t.
For the liberty movement to survive, much less thrive and change the world, it must be economically self-sufficient. If you can’t feed yourself, you can’t change the world. If our activities in pursuit of liberty are not profitable, but only financial drains, we will never grow and advance.
We need more business models around advancing liberty. We need more content, more media platforms, more technologies. With the fake news media collapsing before our eyes, there has never been a better opportunity than now. There is so much pent up demand and very little supply.
We need more liberty entrepreneurs.
Not just from an economic perspective, but from a psychological one as well. It can get depressing focusing only on what the poweful are doing to us. Who wants to be on a constantly losing team, with a victim mentality? It’s time we recognize our own power, take responsibility, and become agents of change.
I am working on several media technology projects with a group of liberty-minded developers and creators. Want to join the effort? Email me at apollo at apolloslater dot com and let’s get to work!
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.
Back in August, I concluded my last post with the following prediction:
However, as the clock ticks towards the election, it is likely that the race will be forced into a Trump-Hillary binary, diminishing the third parties, and giving Trump a much-needed small boost.
Sure enough, this is exactly what happened. Gary Johnson’s collapse helped push Trump over the top in a highly competitive race, as you can see from the RealClearPolitics chart below.
In the end, third parties may not affect the narrative of the election much, but they do have an effect on who is perceived to be winning or losing, especially in a tight race. This has an outsized effect on the race, compared to the raw vote totals, and should be further studied and exploited by future campaigns.
Don’t vote for the lesser of 2 evils — vote for the least of 3 evils! Or, vote for the least of X evils, where X is the current polling rank of your favorite candidate.
This post is an edited collection of my responses to James Corbett’s presentation on the social bookmarking site Steemit.
A new social bookmarking site, Steemit, has been taking off recently, in libertarian and anarchist circles, promising decentralized, uncontrolled publishing via blockchain technology. However, on closer analysis, Steemit does not look decentralized at all. It looks like a standard social bookmarking site, with the added feature of paying for tokens to increase your post/comment ranking. It seems like interest groups with deep pockets could easily game the ranking system, moreso than other sites. In fact, this operation seems more like a scheme to sell digital currency than a publishing platform.
As for the blockchain, besides the nice buzzword, I’m not sure what it solves in terms of preventing censorship, besides providing a public cache. This function is performed now by image-hosting sites, private websites, archive.org, as well as the social network platforms themselves. The big problem is discovery and ranking, how people actually communicate and find out about stuff, which Steemit is still very vulnerable to.
It’s very odd that Steemit requires a Facebook or Reddit account to function, with plans to add SMS verification, but no stated plans to remove these restrictions. I’m not sure what permissions they ask for, since I haven’t signed up, but it certainly opens the possibility of those social networks reading your Steemit posts and punishing you on their platform. In any case, it’s a big hint that this is not a decentralized system and is doubly strange because most platforms do not have such a restrictive requirement. A truly decentralized system would not have a spam/fake account problem, except as DDoS, since it would not rely on a central index.
I was floored by the sheer inanity of Walter Block going back on his word to disband “Libertarians for Trump” after the convention. This nonsensical shilling for a would-be tyrant by a smart, prominent libertarian, based on nothing more than a willful naivete around a politician’s lies, is very discouraging.
Remember candidate George W. Bush’s claim to be against nation-building? Boy, did that work out well. Now we are supposed to believe Trump is a non-interventionist, even though his psychology and history clearly do not point to that conclusion. It’s like the last 16 years never happened and no lessons were learned about believing presidential candidates’ words.
Walter Block isn’t the only libertarian with googly-eyes for Trump; Lew Rockwell, Justin Raimondo, and others as well. Maybe they are more paleocons than libertarians after all? Who can tell. But if these libertarian leaders can be so taken in by the emotional con game, what hope is there for the masses? Can education and spreading ideas really result in a voluntary society? Do we not have the right ideas yet and that’s why we’re falling into error? What are we missing?
Here are a few suggestions of what I think we need, that we’re missing.
#1, devise ways to measure how much progress we’re making toward the goal of a voluntary society. We need to be able to tell which tactics work and which don’t, which are more effective and less effective. We clearly don’t have a good handle on this, judging by the constant debates on the merits of voting.
#2, create an institutional alternative to the Libertarian Party, focused on non-political means of achieving a voluntary society. There are plenty of options already on the table; they should be catalogued, nurtured, promoted, and funded at an institutional level. Right now, most people assume that electoral politics is the only way to effect change. A non-political action organization would help break this paradigm.
#3, develop self-reinforcing systems of advancing liberty. The problem with relying on education to advance liberty is that it’s a constant struggle, and only a few will have the motivation, time, patience, curiosity, resources, etc. to understand the issues and go against their emotional instincts. Even with this education, as we’ve seen with “Libertarians for Trump”, it’s easy to go off the rails.
Just as the market functions regardless of the personal opinions of its participants, we need to devise systems that inherently advance liberty by their very nature. Ideally, such systems would align people’s financial interests with advancing liberty. It’s hard to stay in the fight if you have to scrape by to survive. A focus on systems of coordination, not just the ideas of liberty per se, is needed to make the liberty movement an effective social force.
This is the guy running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket – what a joke!