Marxism, Nazism and a Potentially Radical Theory for Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

The Poles have the historical appearance to have been oppressed by both the Nazis and the Commies/Marxists. Countries in Eastern Europe who went through being occupied by Nazis and Marxists often speak out loudly about their dangers. Yet, out here in the West, it seems our people are willing to only hear half of it, as the Marxists are spreading like wildfire.

Socialism, National Socialism (Nazism for those who somehow dont know this), Communism and any other variation of Marixsm, as well as any racial supremacist groups, including the KKK, have no place in the United States. You have the right to your beliefs but you do not have the right to enforce those beliefs on the people via policy and/or law, and this has to be the libertarian position. These political beliefs violate the non-aggression principle, and the overall rights of the individual. If we were to allow any socialist policies to go forth, including such things as universal healthcare or free college/university we would be failing (I hate to sound like a collectivist) the people of the United States. Through these types of policies, we, the people, would essentially be financially responsible for the lifestyles and educational choices of the rest of the country through taxation, which brings me to my next point.

The general libertarian view on taxation is that it is coercion. The state is essentially stealing our money through threat of force; this means that the state itself is in violation of the NAP. Would we, in turn, suggest that the state itself be dissolved? Many say yes, yet this enters the realm of anarchism, and less of libertarianism. Libertarianism, as I know it, isnt for the complete dissolution of government but for the reduction of government. But how can a government exist without money? Weve already answered this in thousands upon thousands of conversations: through donation and charity.

The government works today as a middle man: it takes our money and funnels it into things such as infrastructure and welfare. It does so via coercion through threat of force and while we know that these services can be provided solely through the market, we must think of those who arent capable of a self-sustainable life: seniors, the mentally and physically disabled, and in some cases, children whose parents are unable to provide resources needed to live.

What we need is tax reform and we already know the solution (in fact, we rant about it all the time): volunteerism. Make it so that taxation is a voluntary system and that we, the people, get to decide where our money gets to go to. If you want to donate $2,000 to the welfare of the mentally ill than thats where the money will go. If you want to donate $10 to fill a pot hole, have at it. In short, the government is supposed to work for the people, but through threatening us in order to provide us services, it is doing more harm than good. Without the threat of jail time or even a forced quota system, government could be, at its essence, a charitable organization. Isnt that what the government is supposed to be anyways, for the people and by the people?

This being such a radical idea, and already with so many holes in it for a large country to implement suddenly, I would suggest if we want to make any progress towards a truly free and liberty focused society we find a way to test a system such as this. It could be proposed and put up for a vote in a small town somewhere and tried out for a set period of time. Probably the best two things about this theory is that it is doesnt violate the NAP in any way and that it is a volunteer based system.

In a time of radicals on every side of the aisle and high tensions, I cant think of a better time to try to actually test out this theory and bring the country back to sanity. Benjamin Franklin supposedly said, Im an extreme moderate. I believe anybody not in favor of moderation and compromise ought to be castrated. It is best that the only radicals in society be those who promote individualism and liberty instead of those who promote collectivism and obedience.

* Jarod Goodwin is an archaeology student in his mid-twenties. Hes worked in the grassroots movement for the election of Jim Webb in 2016, and in informing foreigners and locals alike to the different political sides of things like Brexit, the Dutch election, French election, Canadian, Swedish, and Brazilian politics.

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Marxism, Nazism and a Potentially Radical Theory for Libertarianism – Being Libertarian

Is the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism like Wikipedia? – Cato Institute (blog)

I see that my colleagues are referring to the new online Encyclopedia of Libertarianism as a Wikipedia for libertarianism. I suppose thats sort of true, in that its an online encyclopedia. But its not exactly Hayekian, as Jimmy Wales describes Wikipedia. That is, it didnt emerge spontaneously from the actions of hundreds of thousands of contributors. Instead, editors Ronald Hamowy, Jason Kuznicki, and Aaron Steelman drew up a list of topics and sought the best scholars to write on each one people like Alan Charles Kors, Bryan Caplan, Deirdre McCloskey, George H. Smith, Israel Kirzner, James Buchanan, Joan Kennedy Taylor, Jeremy Shearmur, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, Norman Barry, Richard Epstein, Randy Barnett, and Vernon L. Smith, along with many Cato Institute experts. In that regard its more like the Encyclopedia Britannica of libertarianism, a guide to important topics by top scholars in the relevant field.

The Britannica over the years has published articles byAlbert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie, Leon Trotsky, Harry Houdini, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Milton Friedman, Simon Baron Cohen, and Desmond Tutu. They may have slipped a bit when they published articles by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Lee Iacocca. And particularly when they chose to me to write their entry on libertarianism.

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Is the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism like Wikipedia? – Cato Institute (blog)

Libertarianism in the United States – Wikipedia

Libertarianism in the United States is a movement promoting individual liberty and minimized government.[1][2] Although the word libertarian continues to be widely used to refer to socialists internationally, its meaning in the United States has deviated from its political origins.[3] The Libertarian Party asserts the following to be core beliefs of libertarianism:

Libertarians support maximum liberty in both personal and economic matters. They advocate a much smaller government; one that is limited to protecting individuals from coercion and violence. Libertarians tend to embrace individual responsibility, oppose government bureaucracy and taxes, promote private charity, tolerate diverse lifestyles, support the free market, and defend civil liberties.[4][5]

Through 20 polls on this topic spanning 13 years, Gallup found that voters who are libertarian on the political spectrum ranged from 1723% of the US electorate.[6] This includes members of the Republican Party (especially Libertarian Republicans), Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, and Independents.

Libertarianism, like many other concepts, predates the official coinage of that word. In the US the general movement started, philosophically, with the founding of the country itself, which was based on classical liberal ideas, which came to be known in the 20th century US as libertarianism. The ideas of John Locke, fundamental to those of the Founding Fathers, are considered a starting point for libertarian thought. Minarchists like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, influenced by Locke, advocated positions that are not only compatible with modern American libertarianism, but are also considered foundations for that movement.

In the 19th century, key libertarian thinkers, individualist anarchists and minarchists, were based in the US, most notably Lysander Spooner and Benjamin Tucker. These political thinkers argued that government should be kept to a minimum, and that it is only legitimate to the extent that people voluntarily support it, as in Spooner’s No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. American writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson advocated for individualism and even anarchism throughout that century, leaving a significant imprint on libertarianism worldwide.

Moving into the 20th century, important American writers and scholars like H. L. Mencken and Bertrand Russell carried on the intellectual libertarian tradition. They were subsequently bolstered by a new movement who actually used the word, most noteworthy among these being Albert Jay Nock, author of Our Enemy, the State, one of the first people in the world to self-identify as “libertarian”, and European immigrant Ayn Rand, strongly influenced by Nock, who helped popularize the term, as well as Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, whose writing carried libertarian underpinnings, and who identified himself by the term as well.

In 1955, writer Dean Russell, a classic liberal himself, proposed a solution:

Here is a suggestion: Let those of us who love liberty trade-mark and reserve for our own use the good and honorable word “libertarian”.[7]

Subsequently, a growing number of Americans with classical liberal beliefs in the United States began to describe themselves as “libertarian.”[8] Academics as well as proponents of the free market perspectives note that free-market libertarianism has spread beyond the US since the 1970s via think tanks and political parties[9][10] and that libertarianism is increasingly viewed worldwide as a free market position.[11][12] However, libertarian socialist intellectuals Noam Chomsky, Colin Ward, and others argue that the term “libertarianism” is considered a synonym for social anarchism by the international community and that the United States is unique in widely associating it with free market ideology.[13][14][15]

Arizona United States Senator Barry Goldwater’s libertarian-oriented challenge to authority had a major impact on the libertarian movement,[16] through his book The Conscience of a Conservative and his run for president in 1964.[17] Goldwater’s speech writer, Karl Hess, became a leading libertarian writer and activist.[18]

The Vietnam War split the uneasy alliance between growing numbers of self-identified libertarians, anarchist libertarians, and more traditional conservatives who believed in limiting liberty to uphold moral virtues. Libertarians opposed to the war joined the draft resistance and peace movements and organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society. They began founding their own publications, like Murray Rothbard’s The Libertarian Forum[19][20] and organizations like the Radical Libertarian Alliance.[21]

The split was aggravated at the 1969 Young Americans for Freedom convention, when more than 300 libertarians organized to take control of the organization from conservatives. The burning of a draft card in protest to a conservative proposal against draft resistance sparked physical confrontations among convention attendees, a walkout by a large number of libertarians, the creation of libertarian organizations like the Society for Individual Liberty, and efforts to recruit potential libertarians from conservative organizations.[22] The split was finalized in 1971 when conservative leader William F. Buckley, Jr., in a 1971 New York Times article, attempted to divorce libertarianism from the freedom movement. He wrote: “The ideological licentiousness that rages through America today makes anarchy attractive to the simple-minded. Even to the ingeniously simple-minded.”[23]

In 1971, David Nolan and a few friends formed the Libertarian Party.[24] Attracting former Democrats, Republicans and independents, it has run a presidential candidate every election year since 1972. Over the years, dozens of libertarian political parties have been formed worldwide. Educational organizations like the Center for Libertarian Studies and the Cato Institute were formed in the 1970s, and others have been created since then.[25]

Philosophical libertarianism gained a significant measure of recognition in academia with the publication of Harvard University professor Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974. The book won a National Book Award in 1975.[26] According to libertarian essayist Roy Childs, “Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia single-handedly established the legitimacy of libertarianism as a political theory in the world of academia.”[27]

Texas congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns for the Republican Party presidential nomination were largely libertarian. Paul was affiliated with the libertarian-leaning Republican Liberty Caucus and founded the Campaign for Liberty, a libertarian-leaning membership and lobbying organization. His son, US Senator Rand Paul continues the tradition, albeit more “moderately”.

The 2016 Libertarian National Convention which saw Gary Johnson and Bill Weld nominated as the 2016 presidential ticket for the Libertarian Party resulted in the most successful result for a third-party presidential candidacy since 1996, and the best in the Libertarian Party’s history by vote number. Johnson received 3% of the popular vote, amounting to more than 4.3 million votes. Johnson has expressed a desire to win at least 5% of the vote so that the Libertarian Party candidates could get equal ballot access and federal funding, thus subsequently ending the two-party system.[28][29][30]

As was true historically, though, there are far more libertarians in the US than those who belong to the party touting that name. In the United States, libertarians may emphasize economic and constitutional rather than religious and personal policies, or personal and international rather than economic policies,[31] such as the Tea Party movement, founded in 2009, which has become a major outlet for Libertarian Republican ideas[32][33] especially rigorous adherence to the US Constitution, lower taxes and an opposition to a growing role for the federal government in health care. However polls show that many people who identify as Tea Party members do not hold traditional libertarian views on most social issues, and tend to poll similarly to socially conservative Republicans.[34][35][36] Eventually during the 2016 presidential election many Tea Party members abandoned more libertarian leaning views in favor of Donald Trump and his right wing populism .[37]

Additionally, the Tea Party was considered to be a key force in Republicans reclaiming control of the US House of Representatives in 2010.[38]

Polls (circa 2006) find that the views and voting habits of between 10 and 20 percent (and increasing) of voting age Americans may be classified as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal, or libertarian.”[39][40] This is based on pollsters and researchers defining libertarian views as

Through 20 polls on this topic spanning 13 years, Gallup found that voters who are libertarian on the political spectrum ranged from 1723% of the US electorate.[6] Most of these vote for Republican and Democratic (not Libertarian) party candidates. This posits that the common single-axis paradigm of dividing people’s political leanings into “conservative”, “liberal” and “confused” is not valid.[41] Libertarians make up a larger portion of the US electorate than the much-discussed “soccer moms” and “NASCAR dads”, yet this is not widely recognized. One reason for this is that most pollsters, political analysts, and political pundits believe in the paradigm of the single liberal-conservative axis.[39]

Well-known libertarian organizations include the Center for Libertarian Studies, the Cato Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the Reason Foundation, the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL) and the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The Libertarian Party of the United States is the world’s first such party.

The Free State Project, an activist movement formed in 2001, is working to bring 20,000 libertarians to the state of New Hampshire to influence state policy. As of May 2015, the project website shows that 16,683 people have pledged to move once 20,000 are signed on, and 1,746 participants have already moved to New Hampshire or were already residing there when New Hampshire was chosen as the destination for the Free State Project in 2003.[42] Less successful similar projects include the Free West Alliance and Free State Wyoming.

The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, DC It was founded as the Charles Koch Foundation in 1974 by Ed Crane, Murray Rothbard, and Charles Koch,[43] chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries.[nb 1] In July 1976, the name was changed to the Cato Institute.[43][44] Cato was established to have a focus on public advocacy, media exposure and societal influence.[45] According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Cato is number 16 in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide” and number 8 in the “Top Think Tanks in the United States”.[46] Cato also topped the 2014 list of the budget-adjusted ranking of international development think tanks.[47]

The Center for Libertarian Studies (CLS) was a libertarian and anarcho-capitalist oriented educational organization founded in 1976 by Murray Rothbard and Burton Blumert, which grew out of the Libertarian Scholars Conferences. It published the Journal of Libertarian Studies from 1977 to 2000 (now published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute), a newsletter (In Pursuit of Liberty), several monographs, and sponsors conferences, seminars, and symposia. Originally headquartered in New York, it later moved to Burlingame, California. Until 2007, it supported LewRockwell.com, web publication of CLS vice president Lew Rockwell. It had also previously supported Antiwar.com.

Former United States Congressman Ron Paul and former United States Senator Barry Goldwater popularized libertarian economics and anti-statist rhetoric in the United States and passed some reforms. United States President Ronald Reagan tried to appeal to them in a speech, though many libertarians are ambivalent about Reagan’s legacy.[48]

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Libertarianism in the United States – Wikipedia

Political correctness attacks the entire learning process – Washington Examiner

The diversity memo written by a now-fired Google engineer instigated days of debate this week, sparking a vibrant conversation about sex and censorship. But the memo, and Google’s reaction to it, also provided an opening for a discussion too seldom had even by the staunchest advocates of free expression.

The culture of political correctness doesn’t only censor people’s beliefs, it attacks the very process by which we arrive at them.

Nick Gillespie explored how the controversy surrounding the Google memo illustrates this in Reason. “Political correctness has in many ways stymied any sort of good-faith conversation about issues touching on race, class, gender, and other highly charged topics,” he observed.

Gillespie, writing from the libertarian perspective, contrasted the arrogance of the philosophy behind political correctness with the “epistemological humility” of libertarianism. “Libertarianism is ultimately grounded not in anything like knowable, objective, scientific truths, but in epistemological humility built on (per Hayek and other unacknowledged postmodernists) a recognition of the limits of human understanding and that centralization of power leads to bad results.”

“That is, because we don’t know objective truths,” Gillespie continued, “we need to have an open exchange of ideas and innovation that allows us to gain more knowledge and understanding even if we never quite get to truth with a capital T.”

Even those who believe their world views are grounded in objective truths should be sympathetic to that argument, recognizing the process by which we develop certainty in our beliefs involves the exchange of differing ideas we must compare to draw conclusions.

Not only do the proponents of political correctness censor those who express what people like me might label objective truths for instance, biological sex differences they also seek to censor anybody who expresses anything that subverts progressive orthodoxy. The result, ironically, is a shutdown of the very process by which many of them probably arrived at their own beliefs in the first place.

“We need to allow as many ‘experiments in living’ (to use John Stuart Mill’s phrase) as possible both out of respect for others’ right to choose the life they want and to gain more knowledge of what works and what doesn’t,” Gillespie wrote, concluding, “Political correctness is not simply an attack a given set of current beliefs, it is an attack on the process by which we become smarter and more humane. That’s exactly why it’s so pernicious and destructive.”

There’s an ascendant reflex to shout down ideas simply on the basis of their perceived wrongness. Inaccuracy, objective or subjective, is tolerated less and less in the public square.

With the obvious exception of journalists reporting on the news, it’s okay for people to express ideas that are wrong, objectively or otherwise. I suspect some of this attitude stems from outrage culture on social media, where people on every point of the ideological spectrum race to belittle other worldviews. To the contrary, we need to respect the value of listening to falsehoods and bad ideas. You can’t actually debunk them without knowing they exist in the first place.

Google employees should recognize that it’s okay to work with a person you believe is wrong. The memo in question was explicitly respectful and appreciative of diversity. Rather than advocating for the firing of its author, why not take a deep breath, recognize the good intentions, look past your reflexive disagreement, and accept it as an opportunity to prove the correctness of your own views?

After all, one day you might just get something wrong too.

Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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Political correctness attacks the entire learning process – Washington Examiner

Public Choice Theory and the Politics of Good and Evil – Niskanen Center (press release) (blog)

August 9, 2017 by Jeffrey Friedman Print

So now we finally know. Libertarians arent the ditzy bumblers exemplified by 2016 presidential candidate Gary (What is a leppo?) Johnson. Nor are they ideological extremists, like the proprietor of the Ayn Rand School for Tots. In reality, the libertarian movement is a cabal of racist plutocrats engaged in a fifth-column assault on American democratic governance at the behest of their billionaire paymasters, the Koch brothers.

Or so Nancy MacLean, the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, tells us in her widely discussed book,Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Rights Stealth Plan for America. As a long-time critic of both libertarianism and the branch of economics, public-choice theory,[1] on which MacLean focuses most of her attention, I was open to being persuaded by her dark musings. Yet, as a small army of aggrieved libertarian bloggers has pointed out, MacLean presents no evidence for her sensationalistic accusations. Instead what she presents are quotations taken out of context or so mangled by ellipses that they suggest the opposite of the quoted libertarians intentions (some examples can be found here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here). As a work of history, this book is a fiasco.

Nevertheless, it is worth reading. Libertarians can benefit from it if they put aside the authors conspiracy theorizing and think about how their movement is perceived by those outside it. Non-libertarians can take the occasion to wonder if MacLeans Manichean view of politics is not uncomfortably similar to their own. Theorists of democracy can think about how close public-choice theory is to one of the most common forms of political criticism in mass democracies: the very form of criticism MacLean directs at libertarians. In short, everyone can profit from the chance to reflect on why MacLean, who in previous work showed herself to be a fine historian, was able to call forth no interpretive charity in attempting to understand libertarians in general and, in particular, her bte noir, James Buchanan, the 1986 Nobel laureate in economics and founder of the public-choice school.

Libertarianism as a Conspiracy of Evil

Consider MacLeans most explosive claim: that public-choice theory was motivated by Buchanans desire to preserve the way of life of white Southerners who in the 1950s, early in his career, were being threatened by desegregation (p. xiv). MacLean doesnt provide a shred of evidence to back up this claim. Seeking to channel Buchanan, who was born in Tennessee but was teaching in Virginia when Brown v. Board of Education was issued, MacLean writes: Northern liberals were now going to tell his people how to run their society. And to add insult to injury, he and people like him with property were no doubt going to be taxed more to pay for all the improvements that were now deemed necessary and proper for the state to make. What about his rights? . . . . I can fight this, he concluded. I want to fight this. (p. xiv, italics in original.) One of MacLeans libertarian critics makes much of the fact that the words she italicizes are not actually quotations from Buchanan: unwary readers might assume otherwise. But MacLean doesnt even provide evidence that Buchanan held the un-italicized thoughtsshe puts into his head. She allows back-handedly that Buchanan was not a member of the Virginia elite. Nor is there any explicit evidence to suggest that for a white southerner of his day, he was uniquely racist or insensitive to the concept of equal treatment. Yet she doesnt provide any indirect evidence that he was at all racist or insensitive to the concept of equal treatment.

The source of MacLeansanti-empirical historiography can be found in the next sentence: And yet, somehow, all he saw in the Brown decision was coercion (emphasis added). The somehow implies that Buchanan did not really believe what he said he believed (despite the absence of evidence for this). But MacLean fails to recognize that libertarians are positively obsessed by coercion, blinding them to just about everything else. It is wrong to accuse them of anything more than the narrowness that marks the thinking of any ideologue.

Breaking: Ideologues Can Be Obtuse

Yet, to be charitable to MacLean, she clearly finds it incredible that libertarianism could make sense to any intelligent person. Therefore, she has little choice but to think that libertarianism must be a mask for something deeper and darker. The tacit premise of the book is that nobody can honestly believe that the opposite of coercion, freedom, overrides claims of need and welfare. But having been a libertarian myself, I can testify that thats exactly what libertarians honestly believe. Orto be charitable to themwhat they honestly think they believe.

Libertarians take the sanctity of liberty (or freedom) for granted. And they fail to question the legitimacy of private property ownership, so they include property rights among our sacrosanct freedoms. Thus, government incursions on property rights are as impermissible as coercion by private actorsalso known, they are eager to point out, as criminals. To libertarians, then, taxation is theft. Conscription is slavery. And government, whose every action is backed by men with guns (the police), is inherently suspect. All of these beliefs are, to libertarians, simply logical consequences of their commonsensical commitment to liberty.[2]

Political theorists argue that libertarians use of terms such as coercion, liberty, and freedom is moralized. In other words, libertarians definitions of these terms beg the question against those who think that, for example, private property diminishes the freedom of the poor or of workers.[3] In response, libertarians will ferociously argue about the correct definition of these terms.[4] Such arguments serve to emphasize how far removed libertarians are from the concerns that have persuaded so many peoplethe vast, vast majority, across the entire planetto embrace government intervention, even if it violates freedom. These concerns revolve around the concrete social and economic problems suffered by people in modern societies. MacLean makes it abundantly clear that she, too, is absorbed by these concerns. So (apparently) she refuses to accept that libertarians obtuse preoccupation with liberty, correctly defined, explains their (apparently) cold indifference to the victims of social and economic problems. Thus, she searches for racist, plutocratic explanations of their indifference.

The Epic Libertarian Fail

Yet while it would have been more charitable, and more accurate, for MacLean to interpret libertarians as obtuse, it would not have been entirely fair. On the other side of the equation is the singular entanglement of libertarianism with economicsparticularly Austrian and Chicago-school economics.

No other political movement has as one of its bibles a tract entitled Economics in One Lesson.[5] No other movements first institution of any significance was called the Foundation for Economic Education. Yet if libertarians really believed, deep down, what they tell themselves they believe about the sanctity of liberty-cum-private property, the teachings of economics would be irrelevant to them: the freedom of property owners would be inviolate regardless of its economic effects. Yet libertarians are even more obsessed with these effects than they are with the linguistics of liberty. While they do honestly believe that government is inherently suspect because it is inherently coercive, they also honestly believe that government action to solve social and economic problems is inherently counterproductive. At the heart of libertarianism is not a deliberate, sinister defense of privilege, but a confused acceptance of two potentially contradictory ideas: a philosophical critique of government as inherently coercive and an economic critique of government as inherently counterproductive.

In my experience, libertarians tend to be drawn into their worldview by the economic critique of government, adding the philosophical critique only when they plunge in and read the works of the key libertarian ideologists, Ayn Rand and the lesser known but equally influential Murray N. Rothbard (or the works of their many epigones). Rand and Rothbard were themselves deeply influenced by Austrian economics, and MacLean acknowledges that Buchanan was converted to libertarianism in 1946, while he was a student of Frank Knight in the graduate program in economics at the University of Chicago. (However, she maintains, again on the basis of no evidence, that it is unclear whether his conversionwas the result of the cogency of Knights teaching or the upheaval on Chicagos South Side as steel and meatpacking workers downed tools in the most massive strike wave in Americas labor history [p. 36]. Here she footnotes three different pages of Buchanans autobiography, where he repeatedly proclaims Knights influence on him butsays nothing at all about the strike.)

MacLeans lack of charity proves especially unfortunate in this connection, for libertarians economic preoccupations lead directly to the need, in their ideological system, for public-choice theory. The key doctrine conveyed by free-market economics, in both its Austrian and Chicago variants, is that unintended consequences may frustrate attempts to solve social and economic problemsand that these attempts frequently cause more harm than good. That is, the governments problem-solving attempts backfire so badly that they hurt the very people they attempt to help. Classic examples are the housing shortages that economists often attribute to rent control, and the unemployment they often attribute to minimum-wage laws.

However, while libertarians have been profoundly affected by the Austrian and Chicago idea that unintended consequences are ubiquitous, neither Austrian nor Chicago economists ever proposed a theory to explain why this should be the case; or why unintended consequences, when they do occur, are more likely to be harmful than beneficial. Such a theory would be about politics as much as economics: it would explain why political decision makers are likelier to do harm than good. Instead of such a theory, libertarians adopted a different theory of politics: Buchanans theory of public choice.

Public Choice: Uncharitability as a Political Theory

I well remember the buzz in elite libertarian circles when, in 1983, public choice began to be discovered by them. (MacLean does not recognize that public choice was a relatively late addition to the libertarian creed.) Public choice, libertarians exclaimed at the time, was the theory of politics that libertarianism had always lacked. But instead of explaining why the unintended consequences of public policies are (supposedly) rife, and (supposedly) negative, public-choice theory goes in the opposite direction. Buchanan asserted that people are just as self-interested in politics as in other areas of life.[6] So we should expect self-dealing from political actors, not benevolence. If they are in it for themselves, then it is logical to expect them to do more harm than goodnot unintentionally, but deliberately. Public choice took a very old and often-legitimate worrythe worry about corruptionand turned it into a universal law.[7]

MacLean is rightly outraged at this. Buchanan and his followers, as she puts it, projected unseemly motives onto strangers about whom they knew nothing (p. 98). In particular, she is offended that public choice deglorif[ies] the social movements that have transformed America since the nineteenth century, and recast[s] the motivations of the government officials who rewrote the laws (p. 76). Buchanans reductionist analysis turned young Americans with a passion to live up to their nations stated ideals into menaces who misrepresented their purposes for personal gain (p. 107). This reductionism, however, brings Buchanan much closer to MacLean than she recognizes. Public-choice theory rules out interpretive charity in advance. All that is left is the imputation of bad motives to ones political opponents. Public choice is MacLeans own method, systematized.

By the same token, however, it is rich to read public-choice libertarians begging MacLean for interpretive charity. Their entire careers have been dedicated to denying interpretive charity to the political actors with whom they disagree. Indeed, one defender of public choiceconfessing that he has not read MacLeans booknotes that MacLean benefited from public funding in writing it. Gotcha, Professor MacLean!

MacLean and public-choice theorists, of course, are not unique in ascribing the worst to their political opponents. Everybody does it. This is an immense problem in modern politics, one we see playing out right now. If ones political opponents are not just mistaken but evil, one may well feel that anything is justified in combating them. MacLeans practice, and Buchanans theory, can lead to a war of all against all.

The Politics of Good and Evil, and an Alternative

Manicheaism is not only politically dangerous but a barrier to sound scholarship. Evil is an accusation, not an explanation. Actions may be objectively evil, but subjectively, everyone is doing what they think is somehow justified. Attributions of (subjectively) evil motives end the process of scholarship before it can begin. In studying politics, we want to know (among other things) why evil results may flow even from good motivesas an unintended consequence.

The Niskanen Centers Institute for the Study of Politics will ask that question insistently. (Watch this space on Wednesday mornings.) Even in considering the objective evils of our time, such as rampant nationalism, we shall try to understand their proponents as they understand themselves. This means starting with their own explanations of their actions and questioning their motives only if this is warranted by charitably interpreted evidence.

Interpretive charity is not merely good ethics, or a salve for raw political divisions. It is essential to the scholarly task: the task of understanding each othera task to which all of us, not just academics but political actors, must attend.

[1] E.g., Jeffrey Friedman, Whats Wrong with Libertarianism, Critical Review 11(3): 407-67 (on public choice, see p. 442).

[2] E.g., David Boaz, Libertarianism: A Primer (1997), pp. 87, 110, 149, 171, 225, 276, 300.

[3] E.g., G. A. Cohen, Capitalism, Freedom, and the Proletariat; Justin Weinberg, Freedom, Self-Ownership, and Libertarian Philosophical Diaspora, Critical Review 11(3) (1997): 323-44.

[4] E.g., Tom G. Palmer, G. A. Cohen on Self-Ownership, Property, and Equality, Critical Review 12(3) (1998); and Whats Not Wrong with Libertarianism: Reply to Friedman, ibid.

[5] Hazlitts Economics in One Lesson is not merely a primer for libertarians who want to brush up on economics for purposes of policy debate. It has been the embarkation point for many a journey into libertarian ideology.

[6] James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent, pp. 19-20.

[7] It turns out that it is not even a good generalization. For a summary of empirical evidence against it, see Leif Lewin, Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Democracies (1991). In a twentieth-anniversary symposium on this book, two of the leading proponents of public-choice theory, Dennis Mueller and Michael Munger, essentially conceded that they were unaware of this evidence and had no answer to it. See Dennis C. Mueller, The Importance of Self-Interest and Public Interest in Politics, Critical Review 23(3) (2011); and Michael C. Munger, Self-Interest and Public Interest: The Motivations of Political Actors, ibid. This is not to say, however, that laws are everywhere and always designed to serve the public interest. See, e.g., Terry Moes Vested Interests and Political Institutions; or The Captured Economy, by the Niskanen Centers Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles. On the tendency of public-choice theory to be removed from reality, consider the words of the Niskanen Centers namesake: Much of the [public choice] literature is a collection of intellectual games. Our specialty has developed clear models of first and second derivatives but cannot answer such simple questions as Why do people vote? (William A. Niskanen, The Reflections of a Grump, p. 151).

Jeffrey Friedman, the Director of the Niskanen Centers Institute for the Study of Politics and the editor ofCritical Review,is a Visiting Scholar in the Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

Originally posted here:

Public Choice Theory and the Politics of Good and Evil – Niskanen Center (press release) (blog)

Defending Jeff Deist From The Politically Correct Libertarians – The Liberty Conservative

Certain quarters of the libertarian universe are in an absolute tizzy because Mises Institute President Jeff Deist invoked blood and soil in a recent speech. In the minds of some PC brain-addled libertarians, this is clearly an indication that the speaker was dog whistling to Nazis. This is both profoundly clueless and shameless PC grandstanding.

Proof that blood and soil can only be some sort of cryptic reference to Nazism is supposedly supplied by a Google search of the term which brings back a lot of links to wrongthink websites. I respect many libertarians. I have many libertarian friends, both real and virtual, but too many modern libertarians inhabit a world that exists only in their heads, and they can be grossly unfamiliar with the intellectual (and real) world outside the echo chamber that is their segment of libertarianism.

Blood and soil is, in fact, a rather mundane formulation that is used to express an undeniable aspect of reality. To deny that attachment to blood and soil is a fundamental aspect of the human condition identifies someone as intellectually unserious, but that is what ideology can do to people. It makes otherwise smart people stupid as they try to force reality to conform to their tidy theories, rather than letting reality inform their theories.

Man has been attached to blood and soil, hearth and home, kith and kin, for the entirety of human history. In fact, much of human history is a tale of blood and soil. Such is certainly hardwired into our DNA, which makes perfect Darwinian sense. Attachment to blood and soil is very logical from a survival standpoint.

For making a statement similar to this during a Facebook debate, I was accused of peddling baseless pseudoscience. Huh? Because other primates do not demonstrate attachment to kin and territory? Because no other mammal does? You cannot penetrate this sort of ideological blindness.

Far from being some exclusively Nazi code, blood and soil have long been invoked within American conservative circles, for example, as part of the long-running debate between paleoconservatives and neoconservatives over the nature of America. Paleocons assert that these United States are a continuation of old Europe in the New World, not some radical new departure or experiment. Neocons on the other hand assert that the U.S. is instead an idea or proposition nation unlike the blood and soil nations of Europe. I certainly side with the paleocons in this debate because an idea nation is an ideological conceit that is inherently leftist. It is also important to note that other countries that claimed to be idea nations were the old Soviet Union and post-Revolution France. Not exactly stellar company.

But even if you concede that the U.S. is an idea nation, the claim is that it is uniquely so. Therefore, by implication, other nations are not and follow the model. Arguably, every nation on earth is a nation founded on blood and soil to a greater or lesser degree, and the degree to which it is lesser is largely dependent on how many differing blood and soil groups it is attempting to make coexist under one national roof. The only nations that are arguably not based on blood and soil are the modern nation states that were artificially cobbled together by others, such as Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, and we saw how well those little experiments worked out. They were led by strongmen and held together by force, but when that fell apart, they naturally separated into their blood and soil constituencies with much messiness. So Iraq is not a natural blood and soil nation, but Kurdistan within Iraq is. So, according to the PC libertarian thought police, is Kurdistan inherently a Nazish country? Are all Kurds therefore Nazis?

I asked one of the Rightthink Enforcement Brigade in my aforementioned debate if he considered a Cherokee Indian Reservation to be a manifestation of blood and soil Nazism? Are the Cherokees who live there therefore Nazis? Needless to say, I didnt get a straight answer. Off course, Nazi-esque Indian Reservations would be a bit of a difficult thing to pull off since the Reservations predate Nazism, but history has never been the righthinkers strong point seeing as how they are peddling a laughingly novel intellectual formulation.

Aside from all of this ridiculous hoopla, I highly recommend that you read the Deist speech. Far from a dog-whistling screed as the PC libertarians have characterize it, it is actually eminently reasonable and a much needed counterbalance to the detached-from-reality brand of libertarianism being peddled by the hypersensitive PC-obsessed new breed.

The speech is very well done, and comes at a very important time as many libertarians are going astray. The Anarchist Notebook calls it probably the most important libertarian speech made in the last decade. What Deist is essentially doing in his speech is defending a concept that, while some will object to the term, used to be called paleolibertarianism. I do not intend to diminish Deists speech in anyway, but what he articulates is not new or groundbreaking. He makes some observations that are really truismsthat people value family, faith, culture, place, and so forthand then makes some arguments that men and women of good will could have an honest debate about, such as the relative role of universalism vs. self-determination.

Early on in his speech, Deist describes and defends orthodox Rothbardian libertarianism. What he defends in theory is a stateless form of libertarianism. It isnt even minarchism that he is defending. He goes on to defend the paleolibertarian belief that the institutions and sentiments that undergird civil society such as family, faith, culture, tradition, attachment to place, etc. are essential components that will hold society together in the theoretical absence of the state, rather than impediments to liberty as many of the new breed libertarians see them. He defends decentralization, secession, and self-determination as political ends that libertarians should strive for rather than the imposition of a universal moral ethic.

Deist concluded his speech with a call to action. In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance, he said. This statement is true on its face. These things do manifestly matter to people and libertarians certainly ignore them at the risk of their own irrelevance, but it is apparently this line more than any other that has the PC libertarian thought police so hysterical.

There is something not normal about a person who can read a defense of the stateless society and decentralization, secession, and self-determination as means of achieving it and immediately think Nazi because of a reference to the obvious reality of blood and soil. This is a sorry attempt by competing power centers in the libertarian orbit to marginalize a mindset that they disagree with at the expense of the greater movement as a whole. Perhaps some of the not-too-bright spear carriers arguing over this really are ideologically brain addled, but I simply cannot believe that people like Steve Horwitz, one of the main ringleaders of the PC jihad, are really that stupid. Theyre not. They are arguing in bad faith by exploiting the reigning PC zeitgeist rather than have an honest debate. Shame on them.

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Defending Jeff Deist From The Politically Correct Libertarians – The Liberty Conservative

Do Too Many Libertarians Celebrate a False ‘Perfection of the Market’? [Podcast] – Reason (blog)

Viking, AmazonNo recent book has caused a bigger splash in libertarian circles than Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains. The Duke historian avers that Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan, who helped created what’s known as public choice economics, had racist, segregationist intentions in his life’s work of analyzing what he called “politics without romance”; that the Koch brothersCharles and Davidare not-so-secretly controlling politics in the U.S. and are devoted to disenfranchising Americans, especially racial and ethnic minorities; and that libertarians are deeply indebted to the pro-slavery philosophy of John C. Calhoun and that we wish “back to the political economy and oligarchic governance of midcentury Virginia, minus the segregation.”

None of this is true, but that doesn’t mean MacLean should go unchallengedor that libertarians don’t need to explain themselves better if we want to gain more influence in contemporary debates over politics, culture, and ideas.

In the latest Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie talks with Michael Munger of Duke’s political science department, who has written a caustic, fair, and even generous review of MacLean’s book for the Independent Institute. Even as he categorizes Democracy in Chains as a “work of speculative historical fiction” that was “in many cases illuminating,” he concludes that her book is wrong in almost every meaningful way, from gauging Buchanan’s influence on libertarianism to her inconsistent views toward majoritarian rule as an absolute good to her attempts to smear Buchanan as a backward-looking racial conservative.

Munger, who ran for governor of North Carolina as a Libertarian in 2008 and maintains a vital Twitter account at @mungowitz, also discusses how that experience changed his understanding of politics, why he’s a “directionalist” advocating incremental policy changes rather a “destinationist” insisting on immediate implementation of utopian programs, and how the movement’s heavy emphasis on economics has retarded libertarianism’s wider appeal.

“Many libertarians celebrate something like the perfection of the market,” he says. “And so we end up playing defense. When someone says, ‘Look at these problems with the market,’ we say, ‘No, no. Actually, the problem is state intervention, the problem is regulation. If we get rid of those things, then perfection will be restored.’ The argument that I see for libertarianism is not the perfection of markets, it’s the imperfections of the state, the institutions of the state.”

It’s a wide-ranging conversation that touches on growing up in a working-class, segregated milieu and possible futures for the libertarian movement.

Munger’s home page is here.

Read Reason’s coverage of Democracy in Chains here.

Audio post production by Ian Keyser.

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This is a rush transcriptcheck all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

Nick Gillespie: Hi, I’m Nick Gillespie. This is the Reason Podcast. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you’re there. Today I’m talking with Mike Munger, a political scientist at Duke, about the new book Democracy in Chains by a Duke historian, Nancy MacLean.

In her controversial work, MacLean argues, among other things, that Nobel Prize winning economist James Buchanan, who helped create what is known as public choice economics, had racist segregationist intentions in his life’s work of analyzing what he called “politics without romance”, that the Koch brothers, Charles and David, are not so secretly controlling politics in the US and are devoted to disenfranchising Americans, especially racial and ethnic minorities, and that libertarians, as a group, are deeply indebted to the pro-slavery philosophy of John C. Calhoun, and that we wish “to go back to the political economy and oligarchic governance of mid-century Virginia, minus the segregation”.

We’re going to talk about all that and more, including Mike Munger’s journey from economist to political scientist then his past history of selling drugs. Michael Munger, thanks for joining us.

Michael Munger: It’s a pleasure to be on the podcast.

Gillespie: You wrote a comprehensive and archly critical review of MacLean for the Oakland-based Independent Institute, it’s up on the Independent Institute’s website, in which you characterized Democracy in Chains as “a work of speculative fiction”. Elaborate on that for a bit. What is speculative about it or what is speculative fiction about her account of James Buchanan?

Munger: Well, there’s a history of history being speculative interpolation of here’s what might have happened given the few points we’re able to observe. It’s as if a strobe light at irregular intervals illuminates something, and all you get is a snapshot. It’s hard to say what people were thinking, what they were saying, but given these intermittent snapshots, you then interpolate a story. Sometimes those stories are pretty interesting, particularly if we don’t know much about what otherwise was going on.

The difficulty that Professor MacLean has, I think … And I think she’s surprised. Frankly, I think she is surprised that so many people knew so much about James Buchanan and about public choice, more on that in a minute. What she did was admirable. She went to the very disorganized, at the time, archives at the Buchanan House at George Mason University, and she spent a long time going through these documents and got these snapshots.

To her credit, she did go to the archives. To her discredit, she was pretty selective about the snapshots that were revealed that she decided to use to interpolate between. There’s plenty of exculpatory evidence that she ignored, put aside, misquoted, but she came up with a really interesting story. I found myself, when I’m reading the book, Democracy in Chains, thinking, “If this were true, it’d be really interesting.” I can see why many people who don’t know the history of Jim Buchanan in public choice and libertarianism, on reading it, would say, “That’s a terrific story,” because it is a terrific story, it’s just not true.

Gillespie: I mean the large story that she is seeking to tell is that James Buchanan and other libertarian leaning oftentimes, pro-free … I mean, I guess, always pro-free market, classical liberal ideologues, or scholars and ideologues and what not, want to put limits on what majorities can do to people, and they often talk about that pretty openly. She reads that as a conspiracy of disenfranchisement.

Munger: Right, because she doesn’t know anyone who believes that. The fact that that’s actually just standard in not just public choice, but political science since Aristotle, she finds that astonishing. It’s something that…

Gillespie: Well, is she being honest there? Because I mean you’ve mentioned Aristotle, well, I’ll mention Magna Carta, where even the King of England, at a certain point in time, had to admit that his powers were limited and that Englishmen had rights that could not be abrogated by even a king much less any kind of majority. I mean is she just being willfully opaque or thick there, or does she, in these moments … And I guess I’m asking you to speculate on her motives, but does she really believe that?

Munger: Well, in my review, I invoke what I call the principle of charity, and that is that until you really have good evidence to the contrary, you should accept at face value the arguments that people make. She seems to say that we should respect the will of majorities, full stop. I’m willing to accept that as what she believes.

I had an interesting interview with a reporter from The Chronicle of Higher Education, who said, “Can you explain what’s wrong with this book?” I sent him four pages with examples handwritten so that he could see. He said, “No, that’s too complicated. I don’t understand that,” so I simplified it. He said, “No, it’s too complicated. I don’t understand that.” Then, finally, I said what I just said, “She appears to believe there should be no limits on majorities,” and he said, “Oh, no. That’s too simple. Nobody could believe that.”

Gillespie: Well, I mean the opening of the book, in many ways, the taking off point is the Brown versus Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954, which itself was an act by the Supreme Court invalidating a majority position that local school districts could segregate students based on race, not based on majority rules. It seems very confusing from the beginning.

Munger: Yeah, not just the Supreme Court, but federal troops sent in directly and explicitly to thwart the will of majorities.

Gillespie: Yeah, but she, at the same time, is saying that any limits on the majority’s ability to do as it wants with 50% minus one vote of the population is somehow cataclysmic and calls to mind …

Munger: Well, but to your question, no, I don’t think she actually believes that. She’s a political progressive. When you dig down, when you drill down on the progressive position, they’re not that sure that actual majorities know what they want, and so they need the assistance of experts and technocrats. On some things, that probably is a sensible position, that we could debate whether the Food and Drug Administration, in all of its particulars, is useful, but you’ve got to at least understand a reasonable person could believe that there are some things that we can’t really leave up to the particulars of voting, rather it’s what the people would want if they were well-informed. That’s what progressives think they’re trying to implement.

Gillespie: I mean what is the goal of progressivism in this? Is it on a certain argument it’s to say that there’s no limit on the government’s ability to tax people or regulate people or redistribute wealth and resources? Because obviously she doesn’t believe if a majority … I mean she’s not a true procedural due process person, where as long as a majority, a simple majority, votes on something, that’s the law.

Munger: Well, what she is worried about is any limitation on the ability of the state to act on the rightly understood will of the people. Anything that the First Amendment or … It’s fairly common among progressives to say anyone who defends freedom of speech is racist, anyone who defends freedom of property is a plutocrat who is defending … That’s a caricature of their position, but what they’re saying is any limit on what the government can do when it’s trying to do the right thing, we don’t want that. They believe they know. They actually believe that they know the right thing.

I have to admit that I have enjoyed going around to my colleagues who, throughout the Obama administration, were pretty happy with what I saw were excessive uses of executive invocation of power. They would say, “As long as my guy’s in charge, I don’t really mind,” but their guy’s not in charge anymore. They’ll admit, “I just never expected Trump to be in charge.”

Gillespie: Right. Well, if we take for granted that progressives tend to be majoritarians, in fact, when their people are not in power, I should point out, they’re less likely to be interested in a simple majoritarianism, right?

Munger: Yeah, yeah. Well, but that’s why they have to come up with stories for why there’s some conspiracy, there’s someone who’s suppressing the vote, there’s someone who’s spending money behind the scenes because if actually left up to the people, as Hillary Clinton said, she’d be ahead by 50%.

Gillespie: Right. One of the charges that MacLean makes in the book is that … And she goes back and forth between implying that libertarians are somewhat racist by design, other times it’s by default, or that they’re not sufficiently interested in the outcomes of particular policies such as school choice, essentially both in a form that was practiced in mid-century Virginia, in the 1950s, as a result of federal orders to integrate their schools. Virginia and a couple of other states talked about vouchers.

That’s actually where Milton Friedman got the idea for school vouchers. He talks about it openly in the 1955 essay where he first talked about school vouchers. That libertarians are insufficiently concerned about certain policies’ effects on racial and ethnic minorities. Do you think there’s truth to that charge?

Munger: There is some truth to it in the sense that libertarians tend to take property rights as given and to the extent that the distribution of power and wealth reflects past injustice. In the case of the south where I grew up, it’s not debatable. The distribution of power and wealth does, in fact, reflect past injustice, and saying we’re going to start from where we are. It’s one of the things Jim Buchanan often said; as a political matter, we’re going to start from where we are. The reason is that to do anything else endows not the state, but politicians with so much power that we expect it to be misused.

That’s the public choice part of this is that many progressives imagine a thing called the state that’s well-informed and benevolent, naturally has the objectives that they attribute to it, but if instead you think politicians are likely to use that power for their own purposes, and it’s actually unlikely that we’ll achieve the outcomes even that progressives think that we’ll get. You might concede, suppose that that were actually achievable, we could at least debate whether it would be a good thing. That’s not how the state is going to use the power that the libertarian of public choice person would say. As a result, we have to start from where we are. It’s not perfect, but we have to start from where we are.

Gillespie: Let’s talk about Buchanan and the response to Brown versus Board of Education by people like Milton Friedman James Buchanan, who, despite having various connections, are very distinct thinkers. On a certain level, they advocated for school choice in the 1950s. School choice in that iteration would have allowed essentially a voucher program, let’s say, where a local government, a state government, a federal government gives parents of students a certain amount of money to spend however they wish on education. That would have allowed conceivably for parents to choose segregated schools for their children while also allowing a lot of poor parents as well as racial and ethnic minorities freedom to leave racially-segregated schools.

How should libertarians talk about that? I mean nowadays school choice is primarily driven by explicit concern for and results that are good for poor students in general and ethnic and racial minorities. I guess I’m groping here for the question of should libertarians replace such a prioritization of property rights or of autonomy, individual autonomy, with questions about racial and ethnic disparities? I mean is that something that should come from a libertarian perspective?

Munger: Well, the reason that this is a hard question to ask is that it’s a difficult issue for libertarians to take on in the first place. I found this when I was running for governor in 2008. My platform when I was running for governor for education was means-tested vouchers because wealthy people often have some kinds of choices. Now what we should worry about is making sure that those.

Gillespie: Just to point out, you ran for governor of North Carolina as a libertarian.

Munger: As a libertarian.

Gillespie: What percentage of the vote did you end up polling?

Munger: I got 2.8%, 125,000 votes, but I found that libertarians themselves were the hardest ones to convince about a voucher program because they just thought the state shouldn’t be involved in education at all, but it already is involved in education; the question is how can we improve it?

I think one of the arguments for vouchers is that if you look at parents, the parents who … And you already said this, but I want to emphasize it. The people who really favor voucher programs tend to be those who otherwise see themselves as having few choices they’re happy with. A lot of them are poor African American inner city parents who really care about their children, but have no means of sending them to a better school.

To be fair, there’s a famous letter from Milton Friedman to Warren Nutter in the mid-’50s. Warren Nutter was one Buchanan’s partners at University of Virginia. In it, Friedman points out that vouchers may be a way around the problem of segregated schools. The reason is that, yes, schools are going to be segregated, there’s not really a way around that, but this means that African American parents will have more resources to send their children to better schools. If they’re still segregated, at least they’re better schools. It’s a way of giving more resources to parents.

Gillespie: Do you think somebody like Milton Friedman … He’s an interesting case because he stressed, for instance, about the war on drugs, that it had a disproportionate effect on racial minorities, and he did that with other programs as well. Was he hopelessly or willfully naive about the meanness of American society, I think, where he would … And a lot of libertarians say this, and there’s some truth to it, but there’s also some accommodationist thinking going on, where as long as your dollars are green, racial attitudes will … And you empower people with more money, say, in an education market that people will integrate or get along more easily. Is that just ridiculously idealistic?

Munger: Well, for Friedman, in particular, he himself had been subject to discrimination, very explicit, open discrimination. I think for Friedman, in particular, he was quite aware of the problem and was concerned in a way that many people are not. Libertarians generally often just say, “What we need is a race-blind society.” Since it’s unlikely that we have that, having institutions that otherwise seem fair may not be a very good solution, but Friedman himself advocated for policies that he thought would at least make discrimination more expensive or would allow people to work around discrimination.

The answer to your question is complicated. I do think that libertarians have, at a minimum, a public relations problem because of the tin ear that we have in talking about this, but I also think that there’s a substantive problem in the way that you say that it might be that having some sort of … Well, what I favor, and this is something that Jim Buchanan favored, is to avoid the waste that’s involved in denying something like equality of opportunity to almost everyone.

Buchanan was very concerned about unearned privilege. He actually favored a confiscatory estate tax, inheritance tax because he thought that was honoring the privilege, making sure that people, regardless of where they start out, are able to achieve is not just in their interest, but in all of our interests. They’re more productive, the society produces more, people are better consumers and better citizens. Equality of opportunity is something we should advocate for more explicitly.

Gillespie: Part of that is that libertarians often try to pass as anarchists, it seems to me. They simultaneously will say, “Well, I’m a libertarian,” which is one thing, and it’s easily defined or quickly to defined as somebody who believes in a strictly limited government. Almost always from any given starting point, libertarians are going to argue to reduce the size, scope, and spending of government, but a lot of us play-act as anarchists, saying there should be no state, so that the answer to everything, if it’s gay marriage, it’s like, “Well,” or marriage equality, it’s the state shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all. If it’s about public school or about school policy, the state shouldn’t be involved in schooling at all and education.

Was Buchanan and Friedman … Or most of the libertarian, major libertarian figures of academics, certainly an economist like Friedrich Hayek, like Friedman, like Ludwig von Mises, like Buchanan, they are not anarchists at all. They take the state as a given, and then it’s a question of do you move it in a more libertarian direction or a less libertarian direction. Is that accurate?

Munger: I think it varies a bit. Mises is a hero to anarchists. I think it’s complicated, but Murray Rothbard took Mises and, I think, in some ways, overinterpreted, but the Mises-Rothbard approach is much closer to being anarchist. Their claim is that anything that the state does, it will either do wrong or it’s just inherently evil; whereas equality of opportunity is a more complicated question.

One problem with equality of opportunity is that it’s much easier to take opportunities away from the wealthy than it is to give them to the poor. It’s just a knee-jerk argument against redistribution is that all we’re going to do is cut the top off the distribution. The problem is not inequality, the problem is poverty.

But a lot libertarians, I think, would not even admit that poverty is a problem on which the government should ask should act. What should happen instead is all we need to do is get rid of taxes and regulations and the market will respond by creating equality of opportunity. There is a point to that in the sense that the best welfare program is a good job.

Gillespie: Right. Well, to cut to the chase, but the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and there were multiple Civil Rights Act in the years, decade leading up to 1964, but that’s a flash point because it’s often seen as a … Barry Goldwater who later in his life espoused a lot of libertarian-sounding platitudes and ideas and policies. In 1964, when he was running against Lyndon Johnson, was definitely … I mean he was the favored candidate of National Review conservatives and of libertarians. If you talk to older libertarians, a lot of them talk about being actualized into politics through the Goldwater campaign in ’64. He also courted segregationists; although he had a long history of actually integrating things like a family department store in Phoenix as well as the Arizona National Guard and the schools in the Phoenix area and what not.

But the civil rights acts in the mid-’60s are often castigated by libertarians for redefining places like hotels, theaters, businesses that were open to the general public as public accommodations, meaning that the state, local, and federal law could force business owners to integrate or to serve all customers regardless of race, color, creed, gender. Do you think the stock orthodox libertarian reading that that went too far? That’s actually what Goldwater said when he had voted for everything before that, voted against it. Are libertarians wrong to interpret the 1964 Civil Rights Act, or rather the creation of public accommodations? Are they wrong to say that that is taking government action too far to remedy racism or prejudice?

Munger: That’s an interesting question because what Goldwater would have said, and I think many people would rightly defend him for having said, is that the merits don’t matter, this is a states rights question. The state needs to be able to govern itself in terms of the way that it decides on voting rights, and individuals need to be able to govern themselves in terms of the uses of their own property. Do you persist in that view when it turns out that the states are systematically misusing that ability to create an apartheid society?

I grew up under Jim Crow laws. I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s in rural Central Florida, and school busing was taking the black kids who live near my nice white kids school and taking them 15 miles away to a rat-infested, horrible place because that was the black kids school. The beginning of forced busing ended busing. It meant that the black kids could now walk to the nice white kids school.

The state systematically misused this. If individuals systematically misuse their property, at what point does the state say, “All right. That’s not really your property. We’re going to intervene.” I think those are really different questions, but they get conflicted severely by the state.

Gillespie: Right. Also, if I can add, I mean that’s one of the things that’s interesting is that federal law’s often seen as just coming out of nothing as opposed to addressing local and state laws or customs that have the force of law, so that … Simply to focus on federal action misses the point that there’s other levels of government doing things that are directly opposite of what the feds were talking about.

Munger: Yes, you cannot defend the right for states to do what they want when what they want is just manifestly evil and which violates the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. There were clear violations of the US constitution that the federal law was finally trying to change. Both the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965 addressed really legitimate problems that the states were misusing the power that they had been given. Now you can lament that the federal government took that power back. It’s in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

Okay, the states deserved it because there’s no such thing as states, what there is is politicians. Politicians cannot really be trusted. Saying that these are states rights, what it meant was that majorities, and we’re back to MacLean now, majorities in these states got to act on evil racist impulses, and those majorities had to be controlled by the federal government. I don’t think any other outcome was possible. Certainly no other outcome would have been better than the actual military intervention, which is what we saw: the 101st Airborne with tanks occupying some southern cities and enforcing what should have been the Civil War end of slavery amendments from the 1870s.

Gillespie: Well, you mentioned, bringing it back to MacLean, you also brought the conversation back to Buchanan and his idea of politics without romance by saying there aren’t states, there’s politicians who use power in ways that are specific and more individual. Just as I think libertarians oftentimes invoke the market as if it’s some kind of Leviathan made up of all the different decisions, but it’s a walking, strutting humanoid figure, we do that with the state, too.

If you could discuss a bit about Buchanan’s characterization of public choice economics. Is that part of what gets under MacLean and other progressive skin? Because he actually is saying that we’re not talking about a value free or a progressive values state, what we’re talking about are individuals who amass power and then use it.

In a crude way, what public choice economics is about is looking at people in the public sector, elected officials, non-government organizations, in ways that they’re similar to actors in the private sector. They want to increase their market share, they want to increase their revenue, but instead of profits, they get more tax dollars or more attention and more resources. That is very punishing to progressives or people who believe in good government. Is that part of what you think is irking her and other people who react negatively to libertarians?

Munger: Sure. It’s exactly what is irking them. I think the odd thing is Professor MacLean’s indictment of Buchanan as being the embodiment of this, because for him … And I tried to talk about this in my review. It’s a little complicated so let me just hit the high spots. The three things that public choice tries to do is methodological individualism. You have to start with individuals partly for reasons of autonomy, but also that’s the reason people get to vote.

The second thing is what they call behavioral symmetry, but it’s what you said, that politicians after all are not so different from the rest of us. Maybe they’re public-spirited, but they also have their own objectives. We can’t assume that they’re either all-knowing or benevolent, which is often an assumption we make about the state.

The third thing, though, that Buchanan talks about, and this is different from a lot of public choice theory, is that we should think of politics as exchange, that is political institutions are a means of getting groups of people to cooperate in settings where markets might not work. We need some sort of way of choosing as groups. Here, Buchanan really was worried about the problem with political authority. The problem with political authority in philosophy is when can I be coerced? When can the state use this power, which is the definition of what the state is, which is violence, when can the state use violence against me?

The answer that Buchanan wanted was consent, when I have actually consented; not tacit consent, not something that we’ve made up, not hocus-pocus, actual consent. That’s a hard problem, but he did believe that there was such a thing as political authority, but it took something like consensus. We’re not all going to agree, but we all have to consent to be coerced. If we are, then we can do it. Under what circumstances can the 101st Airborne be brought into an otherwise sovereign state and force those citizens to do something that they don’t want? It’s a real problem because they did not consent to be coerced that way.

If you think that the constitution, with the Tenth Amendment reserved certain rights to the states, now maybe they’re being misused, but there’s a contract called the constitution that says this is what we can do. What we need to do perhaps is change the contract. He was probably too worried about constitutions, but you need to understand that Buchanan’s main concern is political authority operating through an agreement called the constitution.

Gillespie: To my mind, and again, I guess, when did Buchanan’s … I guess it’s considered one of his greatest works, The Calculus of Consent, which he wrote with Gordon Tullock. That was around 1960, 1962, something like that?

Munger: ’62, yes.

Gillespie: There was a flowering of libertarian intellectuals, including people like Buchanan and Thomas Szasz with The Myth of Mental Illness, which came out around the same time, and even Hayek with The Constitution of Liberty, that we’re all very much explicitly interested in how do you regulate power and how do you disperse power and then reserve coercion for particular moments. It parallels almost perfectly people like Michel Foucault, the French social theorist, who was also obsessed and focused on issues of power.

It has always struck me that there is so much common ground between a Foucauldian reading of power and a libertarian reading of power that was coming out 15 years after World War II and both a Nazi totalitarianism that was vanquished as well as Soviet and communist totalitarianism that was still rising. It boggles my mind that people can’t seem to acknowledge that, that left-wing scholars don’t want to admit that libertarianism speaks to issues of power and libertarians, if you invoke somebody like Foucault or certainly almost any French thinkers, that they go apoplectic.

It seems to me that Buchanan ultimately is engaged in one of the great questions that arose in the 20th Century of total institutions, total governments in big and small ways, big businesses, giant corporations, schooling that was designed to create citizens rather than educate people and create independent thinkers. Is there something to that? In your political science work, who are the thinkers that you think Buchanan could be most profitably engaged in a dialogue with that we don’t necessarily think of off the top of our heads?

Munger: There is much to what you just said. I think that it’s easy for us to lose track because … Your conclusion is right. Those conversations didn’t happen, and it seems now we’ve split off, but during the ’60s, if you look at the work of Murray Rothbard reaching out to the left, they actually thought that exactly that synthesis was not just possible, but it was the direction that libertarianism should take.

It didn’t work out very well because libertarians tended to be skeptical of state power. The left has this contradiction, a complicated contradiction, between saying, “We want the people to have power. We want to be able to protect the power of people.” In fact, Foucault, at the end of his life, became very interested in problems of concentration of power in the state, not just in the market, and said some pretty libertarian things.

Gillespie: He had, in some of his last University of Paris lectures, told the students to read with special care the works of Mises and Hayek. He ultimately rejected a classical liberal way of reining in power, but definitely was interested in that. I guess Hayek and Jurgen Habermas overlapped at various institutions in the ’60s as well, which is fascinating to think about.

Munger: There was some contact. I think it’s partly that the left turned in the direction of endorsing the state, and libertarians … One of our problems is we tend to value purity. That sort of conversation, a lot of people just wanted to kick Murray Rothbard out of the club because we all know that the state is evil and the most important thing is property rights. Anything that in any way vitiates or questions property rights is a mistake.

Buchanan is an economist. He’s worried about trade-offs and he’s worried about agreements. The reason is that in a voluntary exchange, we both know that we’re better off. The argument for markets is you want the state to create and foster reductions in transactions cost that multiply the number of voluntary transactions, because the state doesn’t know what we want, it doesn’t know what we need. We do know, but if we’re able to engage in more and more voluntary transactions, we get more wealth, more prosperity, more individual responsibility, and the world is a better place.

What Buchanan’s question was can we scale up from that instead of having bilateral exchanges where I pay you to do something and we’re both better off as a result? Can groups of us cooperated problems, like David Hume said, where we have to drain a swamp, there’s a mosquito-laden swamp? It’s very difficult for us to get together to do this. We have the free riding problem. Is there some institution that will allow us to have something that looks like a tax, but it’s actually voluntary because all of us agreed that we’re going to pay, just like I go to the grocery store, I voluntarily pay for something. Not all payments are involuntary, not all taxes have to be involuntary. That’s the direction that Buchanan took. I actually think that libertarians just dropped the ball. We stopped thinking in those terms.

The oddest thing about MacLean’s discovery, and you were saying earlier on that MacLean is indicting libertarians, I suppose that’s true, but she really literally thinks there’s this one person, James Buchanan, and his work is the skeleton key that allows us to unlock the entire program. In fact, Jim Buchanan has not been that much of an influence in economics. In some ways, public choice theory has become dominant in political science to a much greater extent, but that’s because the study of constitutions in the ways that rules, limit majorities is just orthodox.

Buchanan’s contributions to increase the number of analytical tools in the toolkit for analyzing majorities, he won, but it’s off for MacLean to assign herself the straw man position and give Buchanan the orthodox position. I actually think that the argument in the book is just confused.

Gillespie: Well, we were on the same agenda in an Australian libertarian conference earlier this year, and one of the things you said there which I want to bring up now because it seems like a good time, you complained to a group of [AMSAC 37:02] libertarians that libertarians are too indebted to economists and that we think too much in economic terms, in economistic terms. You yourself, although you’ve always worked as a political scientist, as an academic, you were trained in economics. What is the problem there? Can you run through your case against being too indebted to economic thinking?

Munger: Many libertarians celebrate something like the perfection of the market, and so we end up playing defense. When someone says, “Look at these problems with the market,” we say, “No, no. Actually, the problem is state intervention, the problem is regulation. If we get rid of those things, then perfection will be restored.” The argument that I see for libertarianism is not the perfection of markets, it’s the imperfections of the state, the institutions of the state.

I’ve had some debates with my Duke colleague, Dan Ariely, about this. Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist, and he writes about how irrational consumers are. He has a point. Consumers can be manipulated in all sorts of ways. My answer is every flaw in consumers is worse in voters. Every flaw in consumers is worse in voters.

All the things that Dan Ariely points to, the fact that free stuff is too important, that advertising about general principles or things that look cool can make us want something. In markets, at least, when I buy something and it doesn’t work, I can buy something else. The problem is there’s not any real feedback when it comes to voting. I don’t get punished for voting in a way that makes me feel good about myself because I don’t really affect the outcome anyway.

I think the thing that we, as libertarians, need to spend more time thinking about is looking at actual policies and saying, “What’s a viable alternative to what the state is doing?” not, “If the state does nothing, everything will be perfect,” because very few people are persuaded by that. Something will happen. A magic thing called the market will grow up.

Now I understand that. As an economist, I understand that. We talked earlier about the Food and Drug Administration. What would happen if there were no Food and Drug Administration? Well, what would happen is that things like Consumer Reports or other private certification agencies would license drugs, and brand name would become more important.

Would it be better? I don’t know. It would work, though. It’s not true that in the absence of state action, there would just be chaos, the Wild West would govern the drug market. But to say all we need to do is get rid of the Food and Drug Administration and markets will take care of it is not very persuasive. You would need to specify an actual alternative that utilizes the incentives that people can recognize.

The short answer to your question is libertarians tend to say, “Markets are great if the state would stop interfering. Everything would be perfect because markets are terrific.” No one believes that. As a libertarian candidate, I found out no one believes that.

Gillespie: What were your most successful ways of reaching out to new voters or to new audiences, I guess both as running for governor, but also in your academic work and also your work as a public intellectual? What would you recommend are good ways to enlarge the circle of libertarian believers or people who are libertarian or people who are libertarian-curious?

Munger: Well, I have found that conceding that the concerns of the people I’m talking to are valid and we just disagree about the best means of achieving that is a big step, because what libertarians tend to want to do, their answer to almost everything is we should do nothing. There’s a problem with property, “Yeah, but if we do anything, it’ll make it worse, so we should do nothing,” or there’s a problem with healthcare, “Yeah, what we need to do is nothing because as soon as we do nothing, things will get better. Saying, “That’s actually a real problem, and I see what you’re talking about. Here’s what I think there were some difficulties with your approach and here’s how my approach might work better,” that means you have to know something about actual policies rather than just always saying no.

See the original post:

Do Too Many Libertarians Celebrate a False ‘Perfection of the Market’? [Podcast] – Reason (blog)

To Duke Historian Nancy MacLean, Advocating Free Markets Is Something ‘The World Has Never Seen Anything Like … – Reason (blog)

Duke University historian Nancy MacLean recently issued Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, an alas quite hot book that purports to expose the dark secrets of Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan and the “radical right”/libertarian movement he’s allegedly the brains behind.

Democracy in Chains/Amazon

MacLean has been convincingly accused by many who understand his work and the libertarian movement with both less built-in hostility and more actual knowledge than she has (including me here at Reason) of getting nearly everything wrong, from fact to interpretation. She recently took to the Chronicle of Higher Education to allegedly reply to her critics.

A quick wrap up of many specific problems found in her book by her criticsby no means allthat MacLean ignores even while allegedly “respond[ing] to her critics,” and which the editors at the Chronicle let her ignore:

Her claim of meaningful similarity between John Calhoun’s constitutional vision and that of Buchanan and his public choice school cannot be reasonably maintained.

Her assertion that the modern public choice/libertarian constitutionalist vision has nothing to do with James Madison is not true.

Buchanan did not, contra MacLean, believe that all taxation above voluntary giving is theft akin to a mugger in the park.

She attributed to Buchanan the belief that those receiving government aid “are to be treated as subordinate members of the species, akin to animals who are dependent” though he used that phrase to describe the attitude that was the opposite of his.

Her attribution of Buchanan’s use of the Hobbesian term “Leviathan” to (racist, uncoincidentally for her rhetorical smear purposes) Southern Agrarian poet Donald Davidson rather than, well, Hobbes, falls apart with study of when and how Buchanan began using the term in his work.

She regularly cites libertarian thinkers as saying nasty things implying a contempt for the poor or for democracy that are not supported by the full context of the quotes; victims of her malicious misinterpretation including David Boaz and Tyler Cowen.

It’s a pattern of hostile incomprehension, and her “response” indicates that this is partly because she’s deep-down unable to view thinkers or funders who advocate limiting government’s scope, expense, or power any other way.

MacLean speaks to none of the above specific critiques of her book in the Chronicle, merely generically complaining about being attacked and insisting that people who critique her work clearly hadn’t read or understood it, or linking to people who sophistically defend some possible meanings in a manner far more subtle and complicated than she bothered to do.

Mostly eschewing factual or interpretational specifics, she reached instead for sympathy by complaining these specific critiques on her methods and understanding as a historian made her “feel vulnerable and exposed” and interpreting an intellectual metaphor for a physical threat.

She does a cute turnaround insisting against all evidence that those who praised her book were the only ones who read it, and that the very political forces she inveighs against in her book “helped create the current toxicity” allegedly exemplified by academic experts explaining how she got so many things so very wrong in her attempt to make her readers hate and fear anyone who wants to restrict government’s power to manage our lives.

She certainly does not address a core problem with her book I detailed in my review: the “historical fact” upon which her entire thesis depends, her book’s distinguishing selling point, which she claims to have uniquely discovered through diligent archival work, that James Buchanan was the secret influence behind the political funding machine of Charles Koch and that that machine is deliberately and conspiratorially disguising its libertarian goals, is completely invented. She creates an illusion of proof by citing documents that do not support the thesis in any way, shape, or form.

The most telling part of her defense in the Chronicle is how hard, well-nigh impossible, it is for her to imagine that people who might want the government to do less are actually a legitimate part of any public policy debate:

Sam Tanenhaus, in his otherwise favorable review in The Atlantic, said, “a movement isn’t the same thing as a conspiracy. One openly declares its intentions. The other keeps them secret. It’s not always clear that MacLean recognizes the difference.” As a scholar, I understand the problems of conspiracy theories and while I never called this movement a conspiracy in the book, we do face a problem that our language has not caught up to our world.

In hindsight, I wish I’d said more about that in my book because we do not yet have a conceptual system adequate to capture what is happening….a messianic multibillionaire [has] contributed vast amounts of dark money to fund dozens upon dozens of ostensibly separate but actually connected organizations that are exploiting what Buchanan’s team taught about “the rules of the game” of modern governance in a cold-eyed bid to bend our institutions and policies to goals they know most voters do not share….

….The world has never seen anything like it before; no wonder it’s hard to find the right term to depict it. It’s a vexing challenge to understand, let alone stop, and in hindsight I wish had been more explicit about that conceptual challenge….

What she is writing about is, yes, exactly what Tanenhaus called it: a movement. There is no need for her peculiar hyperventilating pretense that it’s utterly unprecedented that donors and intellectuals in a democratic Republic would attempt to spread ideas or pass legislation in the direction of limiting government’s expense or reach.

Despite her pretense that Buchanan is some secret linchpin to this movement, he always played a minor role in any kind of explicit policy terms (you wouldn’t know it from this book but he explicitly eschewed reducing his high-minded constitutional musings to policy recommendations or political activism) in the loose association of free market thinkers dating back at least to the 1940s.

Had she known more about the history of free market and libertarian advocates and organizations since the ’40s, she would have known that musing over various ways to actuate their goal of turning the culture more toward free markets have been consistent and often amount to nothing in particular, and cannot meaningfully be read as a secret conspiracy. The very fact that respected historians like MacLean can have this bizarrely uncomprehending attitude toward the libertarian movement is the very reason it needs to exist, and why it still fights an uphill battle.

When MacLean, for example, treats one particular 1973 memo from Buchanan skylarking about a “Third Century Project” to spread free market ideas as something of great significance, she seems to hope she’s discovered another “Powell Memo,” a 1971 memo written for the Chamber of Commerce by future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell that similarly, and similarly in a long tradition, mused about how defenders of free enterprise could fight back in a world they (rightly) felt was rallied against them.

That Powell memo has also been overemphasized by academics dipping into the history of free market ideas as some secret origin of the modern right. It was just one more effort in a continuing, and still-fighting-for-air, movement to limit government growth. It only seems weird and secret to intellectuals of the mainstream or left because they don’t know much about it.

That strong free market policies don’t currently reign in the American public is exactly why an intellectual movement she considers sneaky and evil arose, to try to convince Americans both public and elite that liberty is the path to prosperity and peace. It is not destroying democracy to try to shape public discourse, even if MacLean doesn’t like the way libertarians are trying to shape it.

Her belief that libertarianism is so inherently horrendous she is unable to conceptualize it as perfectly legitimate and totally predictable led to her kookoo public declarations of a deliberate organized conspiracy to discredit heragain without actually defending her work’s credibility on any specificson the part of academics who are part of this, yes, movement.

On a personal note, while she states that her book is the “first detailed picture of how this movement began…and how it evolved over time” (see, using the word “movement” wasn’t so hard there, was it?), she also cites my own book that does exactly that (Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement) over a dozen times.

For the most part, she does so reasonably and accurately. The one doozy of an exception is designed, unsurprisingly, to feed her “secret thesis” (one she spends a third of her book implying but never actually stating, so she can avoid having to explicitly defend it) that libertarian attitudes toward the state were essentially created by anger with the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education that desegregated public schools.

She cites to three pages of my book, and to other sources that similarly in no way support it, the idea that “Brown so energized this ragtag collection of outraged radicals of the right that some were no longer happy calling themselves ‘libertarian.'”

Suffice it to say, nothing in the three pages of mine she cites, or the other sources in her cluttered endnote, support the contention that anything about Brown did anything to libertarians in the 1950s to make them question the term, or (outside of James Kirkpatrick, a right-wing segregationist fellow traveler) particularly motivate them in any way.

But that weird assertion is central to MacLean’s purposes: making her readers think less of anyone who might want to restrict government power in a way she disapproves.

To baldly declare her real central point, which is that “I prefer, and I believe Americans prefer, more taxing and spending and redistribution than James Buchanan and libertarians want,” would reveal her confused alleged historical epic as what it truly is: a hypertrophied polemical op-ed larded with often irrelevant smear and speculation, telling a story about James Buchanan that is neither true nor relevant to “the radical right’s stealth plan for America.”

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To Duke Historian Nancy MacLean, Advocating Free Markets Is Something ‘The World Has Never Seen Anything Like … – Reason (blog)

What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean – New York Times

One of the first usages of the phrase government schools occurs in the work of an avid admirer of Dabneys, the Presbyterian theologian A. A. Hodge. Less concerned with black paupers than with immigrant papist hordes, Hodge decided that the problem lay with public schools secular culture. In 1887, he published an influential essay painting government schools as the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.

But it would be a mistake to see this strand of critique of government schools as a curiosity of Americas sectarian religious history. In fact, it was present at the creation of the modern conservative movement, when opponents of the New Deal welded free-market economics onto Bible-based hostility to the secular-democratic state. The key figure was an enterprising Congregationalist minister, James W. Fifield Jr., who resolved during the Depression to show that Christianity itself proved big government was the enemy of progress.

Drawing heavily on donations from oil, chemical and automotive tycoons, Fifield was a founder of a conservative free-market organization, Spiritual Mobilization, that brought together right-wing economists and conservative religious voices created a template for conservative think tanks. Fifield published the work of midcentury libertarian thinkers Ludwig von Mises and his disciple Murray Rothbard and set about convincing Americas Protestant clergy that America was a Christian nation in which government must be kept from interfering with the expression of Gods will in market economics.

Someone who found great inspiration in Fifields work, and who contributed to his flagship publication, Faith and Freedom, was the Calvinist theologian Rousas J. Rushdoony. An admirer, too, of both Hodge and Dabney, Rushdoony began to advocate a return to biblical law in America, or theonomy, in which power would rest only on a spiritual aristocracy with a direct line to God and a clear understanding of Gods libertarian economic vision.

Rushdoony took the attack on modern democratic government right to the schoolhouse door. His 1963 book, The Messianic Character of American Education, argued that the government school represented primitivism and chaos. Public education, he said, basically trains women to be men and has leveled its guns at God and family.

These were not merely abstract academic debates. The critique of government schools passed through a defining moment in the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, when orders to desegregate schools in the South encountered heavy resistance from white Americans. Some districts shut down public schools altogether; others promoted private segregation academies for whites, often with religious programming, to be subsidized with tuition grants and voucher schemes. Dabney would surely have approved.

Many of Friedmans successors in the libertarian tradition have forgotten or distanced themselves from the midcentury moment when they formed common cause with the Christian right. As for Friedman himself, the great theoretician of vouchers, he took pains to insist that he abhorred racism and opposed race-based segregation laws though he also opposed federal laws that prohibited discrimination.

Among the supporters of the Trump administration, the rhetoric of government schools has less to do with economic libertarianism than with religious fundamentalism. It is about the empowerment of a rearmed Christian right by the election of a man whom the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. calls evangelicals dream president. We owe the new currency of the phrase to the likes of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council also bankrolled in its early years by the DeVos family who, in response to the Supreme Courts ruling allowing same-sex marriage, accused government schools of indoctrinating students in immoral sexuality. Or the president of the group Liberty Counsel, Anita Staver, who couldnt even bring herself to call them schools, preferring instead to bemoan government indoctrination camps that threaten our nations very survival.

When these people talk about government schools, they want you to think of an alien force, and not an expression of democratic purpose. And when they say freedom, they mean freedom from democracy itself.

Katherine Stewart is the author of The Good News Club: The Christian Rights Stealth Assault on Americas Children.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 31, 2017, on Page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: What Government School Means.

Link:

What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean – New York Times

Release the Hyra: Libertarian Party Candidate Is Challenging Northam and Gillespie in Governor’s Race – AltDaily

Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie won their parties respective primaries in June and are campaigning fiercely to be Virginias next governor. But theyre not the only candidates in the race.

The Libertarian Party of Virginia hosted a special convention in May and nominated Cliff Hyra, a 34-year-old patent attorney who lives in Mechanicsville with his wife and three children. After meeting the states petition requirements, Hyra recently officially announced his candidacy and will be a third option on the ballot in November.

AltDaily had the chance to ask him a few questions by phone.

AltDaily: Youve said you became a Libertarian in college. Can you elaborate on that?

Cliff Hyra: Sure. I guess when I was a kid I considered myself a Democrat, but I just started to be exposed to more of the idea of freedom. I started reading a little bit of [Friedrich] Hayek and [Ayn] Rand and [Milton] Friedmanstarted to get interested in the idea that even if you disagree with what somebodys doing, it may be better if everybody leaves each other alone, as long as theyre not harming anybody. So that began my journey to Libertarianism, and I think it crystallized for me in law school. I went to George Mason, and its known for its economics and maybe more Libertarian bent. I had some excellent professors like Don Boudreaux and Tyler Cowen, who are pretty well-known Libertarian thinkers, and I think they added to that idea of personal freedom and libertythe idea that Libertarianism really has a lot of solutions to real-world problems. The evidence shows that Libertarian economic solutions are very successful. So since then, Ive been voting Libertarian for my entire adult life.

And youve got a ready response for anyone who points out that you dont have any legislative experience?

Yes. About a quarter of sitting governors havent held any prior elected office, so its not unusual to go straight into the state executive position without previous political experience. Im a business owner and life-long resident of Virginia. Im a family man. I have three children and another one on the wayso Im very familiar with the problems that people face here in Virginia.

Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie have raised more than $11 million combined. Whats your strategy for competing against the major parties?

You know, you can do very well working with a smaller budget. Its all about getting your message out there, so any way that we can do that: traveling around the state and meeting with different groups, trying to do as much media as possible, targeted ad spending.

Fundamentally, its about the ideas. Even in the last presidential election, when ideas got people really excitedeither in a positive or a negative waythey really got a lot of exposure, even without spending a lot of money. That race was quite different than this one, but even so, theres a lot of opportunities when youre pushing ideas that people are interested in.

Whats the status of you getting into any of the planned debates?

I have not been invited to any of the debates Theyve said, Well, these are our standards for getting in, but theyre quite subjective.

Ive heard that Ralph Northam claims that hes open to my participation in the debates. Ed Gillespies camp, theyve stated that theyre not open to it. Im not sure, really, what theyre afraid of, but I think people would really be well-served by participation of a third party.

Ive listened a lot to what the other candidates have said, and too much of what theyre talking about is just political gotchatrying to score points on the other side. Even looking at their websites, they have a lot of nice goal statements, but they dont really talk much about how to get there. I think it would be great for me to be in the debate and forcing the other candidates to respond to some of these policy proposals and say where they stand. At this stage, we havent seen any evidence that were going to get that. Were certainly working with the debate sponsors and the other candidates to do everything we can to get in the debates, but we havent seen much positive progress so far.

You grew up in northern Virginia, you went to college at Virginia Tech, and you live outside Richmond now. It seems like you could draw support from a lot of parts of the state. Im wondering: How well do you know Hampton Roads, and do you have any campaign stops planned here?

Hampton Roads is one of the first places that I visited after I announced that I was planning to run, and I visited with several groups down there. Ive never lived there or worked there, but I know a lot of people down there, and I certainly plan to come back again and again over the course of the campaign and get to know as many people and voters groups down there as I can.

Every locality has their own issues. As Ive learned down in Hampton Roads, you guys dont like tolls too much! I think there was one specific project that was handled very poorly. In other areas of the state, theyve been handled a little bit better, and theyve worked out much betterespecially some of the HOT lanes that run between northern Virginia and closer to where I am nowtheyve been really successful. Each area has its unique issues, and Im certainly committed to getting out to every location in the state and addressing the peoples concerns.

One of the tenets of your campaign is civility and respect. I wonder if you could say at least one positive thing about your opponents?

I think that Northamhes making some of the right noises about drug legalization. For example, hes come out in favor of decriminalization of marijuana. Im certainly partial to that. On Gillespies side, hes come out and recognized that theres a need for tax reform in the statethat we have a really absurd state income tax. Its never been cut; the brackets havent been adjusted in over 50 years. He recognizes theres something to be done there. I think both of them fall short on their ideas in both areas. I would go much further than them in both cases.

Its very easy for me, honestly, as a Libertarian, to look at good things on each side because Im not really a left-right kind of guy. I recognize that theres good ideas on both sides, and thats one of the advantages that I would have as a governor: the ability to pick and choose the right solutions from either side of the aisle and work with whoever I need to to get that done without the worry that I have to satisfy other people in my party.

I see a lot of positive positions on both the left and the right. Im not interested so much in partisanship, but just really arriving at the right answer and looking at what people have done in other states, trying to be more innovative and adopting some of the best practices that have already been found to work. We could have the same good results here in Virginia if there was the political will for it.

You and your wife are expecting your fourth child in August. How does she feel about you campaigning with a newborn baby in your lives?

Well, that was the first thing I did when considering runningwas talk to her about what she thought. She was all in favor of it. Shes always been very supportive of everything that Ive done, and shes really amazing and a wonderful wife. When I started my law practice, she was very supportive of that, and we were just expecting our first child at the time. It was really as the recession was just getting started. I had planned it ahead of that, and then the economy kept getting worse and worse. She said, No problem. I have confidence in you. Go out and do it. And I did. Thats the wonderful thing about her. Shes really strong. Shes great with the kids, and we have a lot of family close by. Im sure it wont be the easiest thing weve ever done, but if you dont challenge yourself, you dont grow.

You just announced your candidacy in the last two weeks. Youve got about 1,200 likes on Facebook and $28,000 in the bank. If we talk again in October, where do you think youll beor where do you hope to be with your campaign?

The skys the limit. Im running the campaign to win it. I think thats importantthat you set out with that goal in mind. Realistically, I understand that the chances of that are low. At the same time, weve seen how things can snowball. Again, even with the election last year: very unexpected, very surprising. Never say never.

If its not the year that happens, another great thing would be if we could hit 10 percent vote mark, which it looked like Rob Sarvis was going to hit for a while back in 2013 and got pretty close to it. If we can build on some of that momentum, hit that 10 percent markthats kind of the magic number for the Libertarian Partythat would give us automatic ballot access as a major party for the next four years.

That would be really good both for Libertarians, of course, but also for the people of Virginia. Theres a lot of racesespecially at the state levelthat are uncontested. I think at least 70 percent of races are uncontested, so you dont even have a choice. Wed love to field candidates in all those races and give people a choice, an alternative, but because we dont have the automatic ballot access, its really difficult to get on the ballot. We have to get so many petitions signed and so forth. So that would be a major milestone if we could reach that 10 percent level of support.

Even if the level of support isnt that high, if I can affect the debate, if I can force the other candidates to talk about some of these issues that I think are really important and that they seem to be shying away from, thatll be a success as well.

Im hoping that we do talk againmaybe in a couple monthsand we can focus more on the issues. For now, maybe you could summarize your ideas on tax reform?

Sure. As I was mentioning, Virginias taxes are really unusual. We hit our top rate at only $17,000 of income per year, so somebody whos making $30,000 in Virginia is paying more than double the state income tax that someone would pay in California. Californias, of course, well known as one of the highest tax states in the nation, if not the highest. My proposal would be to exempt the first $60,000 of household income from the state income tax. Thats $3,000 back in the pockets of the average family each year. The average family would pay no state income tax. Of course, people could do so much with that money, investing in themselves, their children, their businesses, their futures. Thats the crux of that.

Some of the other reforms Im talking about help to deal with the fiscal impact, although the fiscal impact of that cut is really muted compared to the positive impact on peoples lives because its well-targeted at the people who are paying the most disproportionate amount under the current tax system.

How does that work mathematically to be revenue-neutral? Do you tax higher incomes at a higher rate?

Im not proposing increasing any taxes. Im proposing to pay for the cut out of spending. Theres a lot of low-hanging fruit in Virginia where were spending money, and were really not getting anything back in return.

One of the issues that I like to talk about a lot is criminal justice. Elsewhere in the country, drug arrests are going down a lot, along with violent crimes and property crimes. Here in Virginia, weve had the same thing: Violent and property crimes have been going down, which is wonderful, but drug arrests have been going the opposite direction; theyve been going way up. Theyve about doubled in the last 15 years, to the point where were arresting about 3,000 Virginians for drug crimes each year60 percent of them for marijuana, 80 percent of those for just possession. It costs quite a lot of money just in direct costsover $25,000 a yearto incarcerate one person. This is for something that is legal in 29 other states and the District of Columbia. It has a really disproportionate impact on some of the African-American, disadvantaged communities here in Virginia.

We would actually be better off taking that money and setting it on firebecause at least we wouldnt be making things worse. Its not only not benefiting us in any way, its actually making things worse. Youre taking people away from their families and from their jobs, so the total impact on the economy is actually much greater than that. Thats something that we can cut, and not only will it not harm anybody, but actually by cuttingby decriminalizing marijuana and hopefully legalizing itwe can generate additional tax revenue. We can make peoples lives better.

Theres a lot of areas we can cut without having to make a cut to state services, just by making the state government more innovative, more inclusive, and focusing on those areas where its benefiting all Virginians and having respect for them and leaving them to make their own decisions, make their own choices in their own lives, as long as theyre not hurting anybody else.

What else do you want people to know about you?

One of the other issues that Im pushing is school choice. Were widely recognized to have one of the very worst charter school systems in the entire country. We recently had a bill vetoed in May that would have been a real good start there. I think there are some other states where weve seen tremendous progress. We can have the same benefits here in Virginia if we had the political willif we had the right person in the governors office.

And also healthcare. Theres a limit to what we can do here in Virginia, but we can start by introducing more choice, more competition, getting rid of bad regulations. We can increase access and reduce costs.

If anybodys interested in the ideas that Im putting forward, I would encourage them to learn more at my website: CliffHyra.com. They can sign up for the email newsletter. They can check out some of my upcoming events on Facebook. I hope to meet everybody out on the campaign trail in the coming days.

comments

Jim Roberts lives in Norfolk with his wife and two children. He grew up in Virginia Beach, earned degrees at Virginia Tech and William and Mary, and works in corporate communications at Huntington Ingalls Industries.

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Release the Hyra: Libertarian Party Candidate Is Challenging Northam and Gillespie in Governor’s Race – AltDaily

Greg Gutfeld: Trump Turned Liberals Into Dean Wormer [Podcast] – Reason (blog)

“Conservatives and libertarians were always portrayed as the shrill and unhappy guys, and the left and liberals were always the people who are having fun,” says Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News’ The Greg Gutfeld Show, co-host of The Five, former host of Red Eye, bestselling author, and Reason magazine intern reject.

“What you’re seeing now is a lot more fun on the libertarian and right side than you’ve ever seen on the left.”

Gutfeld sat down with Reason’s Nick Gillespie to discuss his “ugly libertarianism,” Donald Trump’s love of Red Eye, why he was excited about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and why Trump’s comments on the campaign trail were best understood in the context of a Comedy Central roast.

The interview took place on stage at Freedom Fest 2017, an annual gathering for libertarians in Las Vegas.

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Greg Gutfeld: Trump Turned Liberals Into Dean Wormer [Podcast] – Reason (blog)

Of course Republicans can’t repeal ObamaCare. It’s because they’re conservative. – The Week Magazine

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“Conservative,” “liberal,” and “progressive” don’t mean what you think they mean. But it’s not your fault.

In common American parlance, we use “conservative” to refer to those who want a smaller government meaning lower taxes, less spending (especially domestic welfare spending), and a less active regulatory state. Of course, the term has implications for social and foreign policy, too, but the connection there isn’t quite as strong. Consider that we use modifiers like “social conservatism” or “paleo-conservatism” or “neo-conservatism” to specify some of those positions, but no modifier is necessary to communicate the affection for small government.

“Liberal” and “progressive,” meanwhile, are used almost interchangeably to designate those who want a bigger government meaning higher taxes (mainly on the rich, of course), more spending (again, principally on social programs), and a more active regulatory state.

These definitions are deeply misleading. They are holdovers from an earlier era of American politics that have become anachronistic, sowing confusion and frustration in the process.

Properly understood, all three of these approaches are fundamentally positional, which is to say each only exists in reference to the politics and culture of the present and recent past. None of them offers a static vision of the proper role of government and shape of society like what we get from non-positional views like socialism, libertarianism, or monarchism.

Properly understood, a progressive is someone who looks at their country and government as it is now and recently has been and offers ideas for how to advance, or progress, the human condition, significantly (though not entirely) through positive government action. A liberal is someone who, on making the same assessment, has suggestions for liberalizing, which is to increase individual choice, equality, and freedom. A conservative is someone who takes in the same view and attempts to conserve valued aspects of the status quo, whether by maintaining them or, if they have recently declined, reviving those traditions.

As you can see, the starting point for any of these views is of enormous importance. What is progressive in one context may be conservative in another. A program that is liberalizing in a very restrictive time and place might itself be restrictive in a more liberal society.

The contrast with content-based philosophies like socialism, libertarianism, or monarchism is evident: A socialist, for example, wants to move toward collective ownership of the means of production and distribution regardless of starting point. The path to that goal might vary depending on whether it begins with feudalism or anarchy or liberal democracy or what have you, but the socialist’s ideal is not positional.

In American politics, we’ve come to define positional terms incorrectly because we’ve tied them to their referential location from about a century ago. To be conservative in the time of Calvin Coolidge meant conserving small government, because that was the position of the United States in the present and recent past of the 1920s. It is not the present and recent past of the United States today, saddled as she is, for better or worse, with a sprawling state bureaucracy whose scale and scope has long since grown past anything that might be reasonably called “small.”

Thus, to be conservative today cannot mean to be an advocate of small government. That is a goal that can be sought and is sought by libertarians or those with some libertarian impulses but it is not a status quo that can be conserved.

And that brings me to the Republican government of President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The GOP brands itself as America’s conservative party, and that’s true, but not in the way the GOP itself and the bulk of the American public believes. Republicans are conservative (as indeed are many Democrats, notably in the Hillary Clinton wing of the party), but only under the correct definition, which is to say they like to keep things mostly as they are. They seek to conserve what they value in the status quo and recent past.

You can see this truth writ large in the GOP’s failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare despite promising to do exactly that and controlling both houses of Congress plus the White House. To get rid of ObamaCare, at this point, would mean making an enormous change to the status quo, which is not conservative in the proper sense of the word.

This equally explains why, for all the talk about reining in Washington, electing a Republican government does not produce any substantial cuts to the size and scope of the state. Republican administrations don’t make government radically smaller because doing so is not conservative from the current starting point.

Republican conservatism also at once explains the GOP’s lust for the great, big, beautiful border wall as well as its failure, so far, to actually build it. (I must pause here to note the too-ignored fact that border walls and fences already cover just about all the parts of our southern border where they realistically can be built.) The wall is intended to maintain the United States’ cultural and political status quo, but actually building it, particularly with Mexico footing the bill, would be a new and therefore in this sense non-conservative thing.

This disparity between how the GOP’s conservatism is broadly understood and how it functions in governance is at once fostered and concealed by our sloppy political language. I confess that I don’t have much hope of that sloppiness going away; attempts to reclaim or redefine words in popular conception are almost never as effective as their advocates intend. Still, without some change to our public lexicon, or at least an update to the reference point of these positional terms, that confusing, frustrating disparity will only grow.

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Of course Republicans can’t repeal ObamaCare. It’s because they’re conservative. – The Week Magazine

How influential was James Buchanan among libertarians? – Washington Post

Nancy MacLeans Democracy in Chains portrays the late economist James Buchanan as a central figure in the modern libertarian movement. An individual can be influential in different ways; he can be an institution-builder, inspire strategy, or directly influence other activists and movement intellectuals with his ideas. MacLean suggests that Buchanan was a supremely important institution-builder and strategy-inspirer, though I think she greatly exaggerates his role in both spheres.

But what of his direct influence on activists and movement intellectuals? As I noted in my first post on the book, my impression is that Buchanan was a peripheral or tangential figure in the development of modern libertarianism. It eventually occurred to me that there is at least one objective contemporary indicator that I am right.

In 1988, Liberty Magazine surveyed its readers regarding which important figures influenced their political views. Liberty was a small-circulation libertarian magazine that, unlike the outreach Reason magazine, was written to appeal to activist libertarians, the sort of people who work at think tanks, who are active in the Libertarian Party, or who promote libertarian causes like drug legalization. It wasnt a scientific survey but still provides some interesting data.

Buchanan won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1986. MacLean claims that this advanced the cause as nothing else had to that point. Strange that hard-core activist libertarians didnt notice. The editors explained how they chose the names on the survey list: The names were chosen during the editorial meeting attended by Cox, Bradford, Holmes and Virkkala. An attempt was made to include on the list the most important contributors to libertarian thought, as well as figures believed by the editors to be influential among libertarians, and some individuals about whose influence that the editors were simply curious. James Buchanan wasnt on the list.

This could have been an oversight, but apparently not. Readers wrote in several names multiple times, including such now-forgotten figures as Robert Ringer, and even Buchanans sometime collaborator, Gordon Tullock. Buchanan wasnt among the write-ins, either.

For the curious, the most influential modern libertarians, in order, were Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman. Note that contrary to MacLeans (almost entirely undocumented) suggestion that libertarianism was motivated to a large degree by Southern hostility to desegregation in general and Brown v. Board of Education in particular, none of these figures were Southerners, 60 percent of them were European refugees, 80 percent (all but Hayek, who had Jewish relatives) were Jews, and all lived in Chicago or New York.

Its also worth noting that despite MacLeans tracing of libertarianisms lineage to John Calhoun, he also unlike other historical figures such as Locke, Jefferson and abolitionist Lysander Spooner does not appear on the list.

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How influential was James Buchanan among libertarians? – Washington Post

Embracing Libertarianism Will Make You a Better American – Being Libertarian

There are so many reasons to be a Libertarian in this day and age. In a nation where Republicans and Democrats each advocate for big government in their own ways, the Libertarian Party is the one true representation of pure liberty.

Libertarians promote freedom, capitalism, private property rights, and more. Likewise, Libertarians oppose unnecessary wars, statism, taxes, and the like.

People who subscribe to libertarianism believe each American is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. Espousing libertarianism will help the citizens of this nation cherish the values that America was originally founded on.

According to the Free Republic, one of the core creeds of our Founding Fathers stated that life and liberty are secure only as long as the rights of property are secure.

In essence, property rights are as follows: Americans reserve the rights to create and use goods, earn income from their productions, and distribute the goods to others if they so choose. This is a critical component of capitalism.

Detractors of capitalism assert that it is an unfair system which favors the wealthy and privileged. In reality, capitalism favors individuals who are able to produce marketable goods and services. Capitalism has engendered many Americans to escape the crippling bonds of poverty.

Libertarians are staunch defenders of a capitalist society because we realize the importance and necessity of Americans being able to engender their own wealth and success as opposed to receiving crippling government handouts.

Contrary to what many radical liberals preach, nobody is entitled to someone elses income. Becoming a libertarian opens ones eyes to all of the existing possibilities and opportunities available to those who are willing to work hard.

Just as libertarians embrace property rights, liberty, and capitalism, we also vehemently oppose destructive and anti-American forces such as wars, statism, and crippling taxes. These toxic influences are direct extensions of big government.

As stated on the foreign policy page of the Libertarian Partys official website, Libertarians aspire for America to steer clear of war. In doing so, countless fatalities and injuries will be prevented.

Quite frankly, a plethora of wars are preventable and many politicians enter them due to matters like ego.

If the United States is attacked, this nation reserves the right to defend ourselves, but if not, our leaders have no business antagonizing other countries. Imagine if everyone applied this train of thought in their daily lives. The promotion of peacefulness and individualism embodies libertarianism.

Statism and taxation are additional forces that libertarians oppose due to their devastating impacts on Americans. In essence, the state is a part of the government. From the time of its conception, the government was always meant to be controlled by the people of this nation, not vice versa. Also, taxation is merely an offshoot of statism.

Those in favor of taxation often claim that this practice is the only way in which our roads could be built or maintained. These people underestimate the power of self-interest, which Libertarian Prepper accurately pinpointed.

Business owners, shipping companies, and other free market forces will voluntary pitch in to ensure the upkeep of our roads. Additionally, roads maintained out of self-interest would most likely not be plagued with pot holes and other hazards.

Taxation is unnecessary and it steals hard earned proceeds from working Americans.

Whether or not one chooses to embrace libertarianism is entirely up to the individual. However, the decision to subscribe to a liberty minded ideology will provide a more productive worldview, encourage the pursuit of success, and prevent unnecessary conflicts.

Becoming a libertarian emboldens each and every person to embrace individualism and ultimately realize that pure liberty is what America was originally founded on.

Gabrielle Seunagal is an intelligent, witty, and iconic libertarian. She is very proud to be self-employed and happily works full time as a freelance writer. In her spare time, Gabrielle loves to read, travel, eat out, and go on adventures. You can follow her on Twitter @ClassySnobbb.

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Embracing Libertarianism Will Make You a Better American – Being Libertarian

Misinforming the Majority: A Deliberate Strategy of Right-Wing Libertarians – Truth-Out

Milton Friedman was a kindred spirit to James McGill Buchanan in terms of a philosophy of deconstruction of the government. (Photo: Wikipedia)

When and how were the seeds sown for the modern far-right’s takeover of American politics? NancyMacLean reveals the deep and troubling roots of this secretive political establishment — and its decades-long plan to change the rules of democratic governance — in her new book,Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. Get your copy by making a donation to Truthout now!

Many individuals who follow politics and journalists think that the right-wing playbook began with the Koch brothers. However, in her groundbreaking book, Nancy MacLean traces their political strategy to a Southern economist who created the foundation for today’s libertarian oligarchy in the 1950s.

Mark Karlin: Can you summarize the importance of James McGill Buchanan to the development of the modern extreme right wing in the United States?

Nancy MacLean:The modern extreme right wing I’m talking about, just to be clear, is the libertarian movement that now sails under the Republican flag, particularly but not only the Freedom Caucus, yet goes back to the 1950s in both parties. President Eisenhower called them “stupid” and fashioned his approach — calling it modern Republicanism — as an antidote to them. Goldwater was their first presidential candidate.He bombed. Reagan, they believed, was going to enact their agenda.He didn’t. But beginning in the early 2000s, they became a force to be reckoned with.What had changed? The discovery by their chief funder, Charles Koch, of the approach developed by James McGill Buchanan for how to take apart the liberal state.

Nancy MacLean. (Photo: Viking Books)Buchanan studied economics at the University of Chicago and belonged to the same milieu as F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises, but he used his training to analyze public life. And he supplied what no one else had: an operational strategy to vanquish the model of government they had been criticizing for decades — and prevent it from being recreated. It was Buchanan who taught Koch that for capitalism to thrive, democracy must be enchained.

Buchananwas a very smart man, the only winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics from the US South, in fact. But his life’s work was forever shaped by the Supreme Court’sBrown v. Board of Educationdecision. He arrived in Virginia in 1956, just as the state’s leaders were goading the white South to fight the court’s ruling, a ruling he saw not through the lens of equal protection of the law for all citizens but rather as another wave in a rising tide of unwarranted and illegitimate federal interference in the affairs of the states that began with the New Deal. For him what was at stake was the sanctity of private property rights, with northern liberals telling southern owners how to spend their money and behave correctly. Given an institute to run on the campus of the University of Virginia, he promised to devote his academic career to understanding how the other side became so powerful and, ultimately, to figuring out an effective line of attack to break down what they had created and return to what he and the Virginia elite viewed as appropriate for America. In a nutshell,he studied the workings of the political process to figure out what was needed to deny ordinary people — white and Black — the ability to make claims on government at the expense of private property rights and the wishes of capitalists. And then he identified how to rejigger that political process not only to reverse the gains but also to prevent the system from ever reverting back.He sought, in his words, to “enchain Leviathan,” which is why I titled the bookDemocracy in Chains.

Why, until your book, has his importance to the right wing been largely overlooked?

There are a few reasons Buchanan has been overlooked. One is that the Koch cause does not advertise his work, preferring to tout the sunnier primers of Hayek, Friedman and even Ayn Rand when recruiting. Buchanan is the advanced course, as it were, for the already committed. Another is that Buchanan did not seek the limelight like Friedman, so few on the left have even heard of him. I myself learned of him only by serendipity, in a footnote about the Virginia schools fight.

His importance to the right wing could only be identified by working through the archival sources that provide context for his published work. That’s what I did after discovering that Buchanan had urged the full privatization of Virginia’s public schooling in 1959, and then learning that he later advised the Pinochet regime on a capital-protectingconstitution that could withstand the end of the dictatorship. Even with both of those data points, I don’t think I could have gleaned the full import of his project had I not moved to North Carolina in 2010, where a strategy informed by his thought has been applied with a vengeance by the veto-proof Republican legislative majority that came to power in the midterms that fall. After Buchanan died in 2013,I was able to get access to his private papers at George Mason University, where the documentation is incontrovertible.

In fact, Buchanan’s records provided a kind of birds-eye view into collaboration between the corporate university and right-wing donors that at least I have never seen before, and I’ve done a lot of research in this area over the last two decades.

How would you draw a line connecting Buchanan to the Koch brothers?

Charles Koch supplied the money, but it was James Buchanan who supplied the ideas that made the money effective. An MIT-trained engineer, Koch in the 1960s began to read political-economic theory based on the notion that free-reign capitalism (what others might call Dickensian capitalism) would justly reward the smart and hardworking and rightly punish those who failed to take responsibility for themselves or had lesser ability. He believed then and believes now that the market is the wisest and fairest form of governance, and one that, after a bitter era of adjustment, will produce untold prosperity, even peace. But after several failures, Koch came to realize that if the majority of Americans ever truly understood the full implications of his vision of the good society and were let in on what was in store for them, they would never support it. Indeed, they would actively oppose it.

So, Koch went in search of an operational strategy — what he has called a “technology” — of revolution that could get around this hurdle. He hunted for 30 years until he found that technology in Buchanan’s thought. From Buchanan, Koch learned that for the agenda to succeed, it had to be put in place in incremental steps, what Koch calls “interrelated plays”: many distinct yet mutually reinforcing changes of the rules that govern our nation.Koch’s team used Buchanan’s ideas to devise a roadmap for a radical transformation that could be carried out largely below the radar of the people, yet legally. The plan was (and is) to act on so many ostensibly separate fronts at once that those outside the cause would not realize the revolution underway until it was too late to undo it. Examples include laws to destroy unions without saying that is the true purpose, suppressing the votes of those most likely to support active government, using privatization to alter power relations — and, to lock it all in, Buchanan’s ultimate recommendation: a “constitutional revolution.”

Today, operatives funded by the Koch donor network operate through dozens upon dozens of organizations (hundreds, if you count the state and international groups), creating the impression that they are unconnected when they are really working together — the state ones are forced to share materials as a condition of their grants. For example, here are the names of 15 of the most important Koch-funded, Buchanan-savvy organizations each with its own assignment in the division of labor: There’s Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Mercatus Center, Americans for Tax Reform, Concerned Veterans of America, the Leadership Institute, Generation Opportunity, the Institute for Justice, the Independent Institute, the Club for Growth, the Donors Trust, Freedom Partners, Judicial Watch — whoops, that’s more than 15, and it’s not counting the over 60 other organizations in the State Policy Network. This cause operates through so many ostensibly separate organizations that its architects expect the rest of us will ignore all the small but extremely significant changes that cumulatively add up to revolutionary transformation. Gesturing to this, Tyler Cowen, Buchanan’s successor at George Mason University, even titled his blog “Marginal Revolution.”

In what way was Buchanan connected to white oligarchical racism?

Buchanan came up with his approach in the crucible of the civil rights era, as the most oligarchic state elite in the South faced the loss of its accustomed power. Interestingly, he almost never wrote explicitly about racial matters, but he did identify as a proud southern “country boy” and his center gave aid to Virginia’s reactionaries on both class and race matters. His heirs at George Mason University, his last home, have noted that Buchanan’s political economy is quite like that of John C. Calhoun, the antebellum South Carolina US Senator who, until Buchanan, was America’s most original theorist of how to constrict democracy so as to safeguard the wealth and power of an elite economic minority (in Calhoun’s case, large slaveholders). Buchanan arrived in Virginia just as Calhoun’s ideas were being excavated to stop the implementation ofBrown, so the kinship was more than a coincidence. His vision of the right economic constitution owes much to Calhoun, whose ideas horrified James Madison, among others.

And from that kind of thought, Buchanan offered strategic advice to corporations on how to fight the kind of reforms and taxation that came with more inclusive democracy. In the 1990s, for example, as Koch was getting more involved at George Mason, Buchanan convened corporate and rightwing leaders to teach them how to use what he called the “spectrum of secession” to undercut hard-won reforms through measures that have now become core to Republican practice: decentralization, devolution, federalism, privatization, and deregulation.We tend to see the race to the bottom as fallout from globalization, but Buchanan’s guidance and the Koch team’s application of it through the American Legislative Exchange Council and the State Policy Network reveals how it is in fact a highly conscious strategy to free capital of restraint by the people through their governments.

Another way all this connects, indirectly, to oligarchic racism: wanting to keep secessionist thought alive for this practical utility, the billionaire-backed right necessarily gives comfort to white supremacists. A case in point: the Virginia governors who supported the Buchanan-Koch enterprise at George Mason University also promoted a new “Confederate History and Heritage Month.” Likewise, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which honors one of Koch’s favorite Austrian philosophers, is located in Alabama and led by Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr., a man who has long promoted racist neo-Confederate thought, yet was still thought fit to run the Koch-funded Center for Libertarian Studies. It’s thus a mistake to imagine that the Koch and so-called alt-right causes are wholly separate; there’s a kind of mutual reinforcement if you understand what Koch learned from Buchanan and how they operated.

As I conclude in the book, as bright as some of the libertarian economists were, their ideas gained the following they did in the South because, in their essence, their stands were so familiar. White southerners who opposed racial equality and economic justice knew from their own region’s long history that the only way they could protect their desired way of life was to keep federal power at bay, so that majoritarian democracy could not reach into the region. The causes of Calhoun, Buchanan and Koch-style economic liberty and white supremacy were historically twined at the roots, which makes them very hard to separate, regardless of the subjective intentions of today’s libertarians.

What would a society based on Buchanan’s principles and goals look like?

Tyler Cowen, the economist who co-presides with Charles Koch over the cause’s academic base camp (yes, that Tyler Cowen, host of the most visited academic economics blog), has spelled that out. You might want to sit down to hear what he envisions for the rest of us. He has written that with the “rewriting of the social contract” underway, people will be “expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now.” While some will flourish, he admits, “others will fall by the wayside.” Since “worthy individuals” will manage to climb their way out of poverty, “that will make it easier to ignore those who are left behind.” And Cowen didn’t stop there. “We will cut Medicaid for the poor,” he predicted. Further, “the fiscal shortfall will come out of real wages as various cost burdens are shifted to workers” from employers and a government that does less. To “compensate,” this chaired professor in the nation’s second-wealthiest county advises, “people who have had their government benefits cut or pared back” should pack up and move to lower-cost, poor public service states like Texas.

Indeed, Cowen forecasts, “the United States as a whole will end up looking more like Texas.” His tone is matter-of-fact, as though he is reporting the inevitable. Yet when one reads his remarks with the knowledge that he has been the academic leader of a team working in earnest with Koch for two decades now to bring about the society he is describing, the words sound more like premeditation. For example, Cowen prophesies lower-income parts of America “recreating a Mexico-like or Brazil-like environment” complete with “favelas” like those in Rio de Janeiro. The “quality of water” might not be what US citizens are used to, he admits, but “partial shantytowns” would satisfy the need for cheaper housing as “wage polarization” grows and government shrinks. Cowen says that “some version of Texas — and then some — is the future for a lot of us” and advises, “Get ready.”

You conclude your book ironically with a Koch maxim: “playing it safe is slow suicide.” How does that apply to those who support a robust, non-plutocratic society?

I ended the book that way because I understand the many pressures that lead people not to act on their anxiety over what they are seeing unfold in Washington and so many states. Union leaders have fiduciary responsibilities that make bold action risky. Nonprofits have boards of directors to answer to. Young faculty must earn tenure. People in public institutions worry about their next appropriations. Parents have to budget their time. And so on. We tell ourselves, “Well, if it were that serious, surely others would be doing something about it.” So, I wanted to alert people that what is happening now is radically new — and designed to be permanent. We may not get another chance to stop it.

Having said that, though, I also believe that panic is the last thing we need. There is great strength to be found in the simple truth thatBuchanan and Koch came up with the kind of strategy now in play precisely because they knew that the majority, if fully informed, would never support what they seek.So, the best thing that those who support a robust, non-plutocratic society can do is focus on patiently informing and activating that majority. And reminding all Americans that democracy is not something you can just assume will survive: It has to be fought for time and again. This is one of those moments.

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Misinforming the Majority: A Deliberate Strategy of Right-Wing Libertarians – Truth-Out

Trump, May, and Autocratic Libertarianism – Bright Green

A section of the cover of Hobbes Leviathan with engraving by Abraham Bosse, 1651. Image via Wikipedia.

At first glance the fact that Donald Trump and Theresa Mays neo-Conservative agenda mixes a libertarian ideology with a strong authoritarian streak seems contradictory. In the United States we see Trump using an autocratic executive order to mandate that two rules for business must be repealed for each new one enacted in Congress. In Britain a similar mantra of a bonfire of red tape is accompanied by the attempt to use the Royal Prerogative to force through Brexit decisions. But autocracy was built into Libertarianism when it first appeared centuries ago!

It is not just in religious texts that people die and get buried only to be resurrected and live a far more celebrated second life; or at least their works do. It happened to the composer J.S. Bach, whose music disappeared for over a century before it was resurrected by Felix Mendelssohn in the mid Nineteenth Century. It also happened to a man who died just before Bach was born, the seventeenth century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

Ironically for one of the founders of liberal and libertarian thinking, (along with John Locke) a primary aim of Hobbes was a defence of sovereign power and autocratic government. Hobbes works include Leviathan, published in 1651 in which he developed his Social Contract Theory.

His efforts were largely aimed at opposing the radical politics which emerged during the English Civil War of the previous decade (partly as a result of the radical Leveller group) and the theories of the High Republicans during the English Commonwealth of the early 1650s (1).

Strangely, although Hobbes ideas were applicable to a Royalist settlement as well as the Council of State of their bitter opponent Parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell, both sides found his views unpalatable. So, just like the work of the composer Bach, Hobbes theories fell into obscurity for over a century to be revived during the debate over American Independence in the 1770s.

So what lay behind Hobbes insistence on an absolute monarch? It comes from Hobbes concept of society which viewed people atomistically, in perpetual motion trying to gain economic advantage and influence over each other. From this a natural structure to society emerges with individuals all seeking their own best interests.

But if society is of this nature, what stops it falling apart in some kind of anarchic fight for ultimate power? Why, none other than a universally accepted absolute sovereign charged with passing and enforcing laws to ensure the continued health of the competitive system.

To keep the sovereign above the throng he or she would have the power to appoint their successor (what better than the eldest son!). Importantly, the Sovereign was not necessarily an individual in the Hobbes system, but could also be an elite ruling group or even, surprisingly, a democratically chosen chamber. What concerned Hobbes was not so much the source of the power but the absolute manner in which it was wielded.

Hobbes claimed that the legitimacy for his theory came from the freedoms which man possessed in the state of nature. But as C. B. MacPherson showed in his book Possessive Individualism, this was a fallacy.

What Hobbes did was to take the contemporary mid-seventeenth century English economic structure of small traders and freelancers and hypothesize how they would behave if laws were removed. Crucially, his version of liberty rested on the fact that a person is free to the extent that he/she is not constrained by laws; the Sovereign is there merely for the stability of society and the health of a free market.

For Hobbes, so-called freedom by non-interference was key and as freedom is maximised when the number and extent of laws are minimised, it is actually irrelevant whether the laws are passed by an elected chamber or an absolute monarch. The idea of liberty through non-interference, also expounded by John Locke, was later developed by Jeremy Bentham and became the prevalent view which still dominates today.

But it turns out that this idea of liberty is not nearly strong enough and not only must there be non-interference, but there must be no possibility of interference (so-called non-domination). Furthermore, the state itself must also be free, prevented from being subverted by individual or sectarian interests. In this view a sovereign must be restrained from creating arbitrary laws to their own advantage or blocking new laws to extend liberty in some facet of society.

Thus to a modern day British Republican (and more widely to any real Democrat as a believer of rule by the people) the mere existence of the Royal Prerogative along with Royal Assent (though not used since 1707) and Queens Consent which can be used to prevent debate in the House of Commons is unacceptable. As Philip Pettit in his book Republicanism writes:

Liberty as non-domination republican liberty had not only been lost to political thinkers and activists; it had even become invisible to the historians of political thought.

As activists we need to recover this idea of republican liberty. Remember that the theory calls for the wielding of absolute power (or as close as we can get in the form of Prerogative or Executive Order). Although Hobbes can be seen as the progenitor of the concept, modern Libertarians are actually critical of Trump and May, viewing the size of the Government they propose as being far too large. Nevertheless the autocratic Libertarian elements of both leaders must be opposed for a compassionate and fair society with effective individual rights to survive. The recent debacle suffered by Theresa may in this General Election greatly increases the chances of a successful outcome in the near future. But the ideology is as old as the hills and we can be certain that sooner or later it will flourish again.

Notes

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Trump, May, and Autocratic Libertarianism – Bright Green

Natural-Law Libertarianism And The Pursuit Of Justice – The Liberty Conservative

Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute recently wrote an article arguing that libertarians should abandon any arguments regarding natural rights. As Lindsey sees it, the concept of natural rights is an intellectual dead end and that adherence to natural rights arguments should be abandoned. His perspective can largely be boiled down into two categories: strategic pragmatism and the inadequacy of the natural rights doctrine in constructing a libertarian legal order.

Libertarians always have and always will debate strategy. This question is not very interesting to me as it can ultimately only be answered empirically. Lindsey argues that Instead of spinning utopias, libertarians should focus instead on the humbler but more constructive task of making the world we actually inhabit a better place. Im very open to this argument, and as soon as the Cato Institute can demonstrate that it has actually effected change in government policy in a libertarian direction, I am willing to consider capitulating to Lindseys arguments for a more pragmatic strategy. As of yet, however, his constructive approach to libertarianism has had no more reductive effects in government than the purist approach to libertarianism he loves to attack, so it is objectively impossible for him to proclaim his views to be any less utopian than the radicals who stubbornly cling to their principles.

More interesting to me is the claim that natural rights are insufficient in determining a full-blown, operational legal order. This statement is interesting because I was not aware that any natural-rights libertarian scholar ever claimed that it could. Lindsey argues that the problem lies not with the concept of natural rights, but in that concepts overextension because these principles fail to determine the specific guidelines upon which all disputes would be precisely adjudicated.

The first correction that must be made to Lindseys argument is that no serious libertarian thinker argues that natural rights are the beginning and end of libertarian legal theory. What these principles allow us to do is to establish, first, a property ethic and, from this, a theory of justice. Hans Hermann Hoppe offers what is arguably the most complete natural rights doctrine known as his Argumentation Ethics. Even natural rights libertarians who do not accept the ethics of argumentation generally agree on the principles it purports to prove: The Private Property Ethic (or, the Libertarian Property Ethic) and its logical derivative the Non-Aggression Principle, which we may call the libertarian theory of justice.

This forms an ethical basis for libertarianism without which we would have no means of determining what constitutes a libertarian position to begin with. In fairness, Lindsey is not claiming that natural rights are necessarily wrong; he is just saying that libertarians should abandon these ideas whether they are correct or not for pragmatic reasons, of course.

Brink Lindsey may desire a libertarian community that is held together only by a label representing a hodgepodge of contradictory political positions after all, this is the formula that has made the Republican and Democratic parties so successful! but we nave purists often desire something more consistent and principled to associate ourselves with, and there is no means of establishing principles aside from ethical philosophy. What the ethical philosophy of natural rights allows us to do is direct our own individual behavior according to libertarian principles and to prescribe political solutions that are ethically consistent with these principles. This does not mean that there is a precisely determined, canonical position on every conceivable issue for libertarians, but these disagreements stem from the fact that ethical philosophy can (and should) be debated. But it cannot be dismissed altogether.

However, Lindsey is correct in arguing that the establishment of this theory of justice is insufficient in determining legal structure and answering certain questions regarding positive law. He does concede that more sophisticated presentations of radical libertarianism do take note of some of these complexities but adds the caveat that they present these open questions as minor blank spaces in an otherwise determinate legal structure, to be filled in by custom or common-law jurisprudence. The problem with his objection is that this demands natural rights theory to be something more than it is intended to be. Thus, it isnt the natural rights libertarians who are overextending the theory of natural rights; it is Brink Lindsey who is doing so.

Natural rights libertarian theorists such as Murray Rothbard and Hans Hermann Hoppe also combine ethical principles with the economic methodology of Ludwig von Mises praxeology to determine what economic system is most compatible with the Private Property Ethic in maximizing prosperity (they determine, as anarcho-capitalists, that a purely free market is the most compatible with this end), and they derive from this economic framework the most compatible legal framework that, combined with the libertarian theory of justice, will most effectively handle disputes. The complete libertarian political framework provides both an ethical and a pragmatic answer to political questions, but Brink Lindsey appears to live in a world in which a libertarian must choose to deal exclusively with one category or the other. This one-sided approach to libertarianism is neither desirable nor possible (after all, even if one were to make an exclusively pragmatic argument, as Lindsey advises, then the assumption of any goodness of the results of the policies prescribed tacitly depend on some ethical value judgment to begin with).

Economic theory does not empower us to determine the specific manner in which a legal system will manifest in a given society. It simply tells us that on the assumption that human beings value peace above conflict institutions will emerge that will best facilitate the administration of justice according to the preferences of consumers. This is the economic basis for private courts.

Concomitant to private courts is the establishment of private law, which legal theorists will refer to as common law. As previously quoted, Lindsey assumes that no libertarian has ever offered any answer as to how common law will fill in the blank spaces of the otherwise determinate legal structure. This may be the case if one confines himself to the world of the Cato Institute, as Brink Lindsey appears to do in citing only Cato Institute adjunct scholars in reference to his arguments. But if he were to venture out into the wider libertarian world, Lindsey would find a plethora of scholarship on the issue of common law jurisprudence. Edward Stringham edited an entire collection of scholarly articles regarding anarchic legal theory. Bruce Benson has been conducting scholarship in this field since the 1980s, and his work The Enterprise of Law details the centuries-long Anglo-Saxon history of private dispute adjudication (this work is nearly three decades old, so it may be fair that Lindsey has not yet had time to read it). Even one of the Cato Institutes own senior fellows, John Hasnas, has written a great deal on the establishment of common law through the tort system!

Common law systems throughout history do not address rights violations in a uniform way, and it would be absurd to suggest that any theoretical system of private courts would do so either. However, what can be said is that in the absence of a coercive government, courts will manifest, there will exist an avenue for bringing perceived rights violations in front of an arbiter, and there will be a mechanism through which restitution can be enforced. Lindsey is perplexed by the fact that natural rights doctrines fail to determine the nuances of questions such as the specific boundaries of property rights (in a previous article attacking the Non-Aggression Principle, he asks How far below the surface should property rights in land extend? How high into the sky?), the extent to which a person may lawfully go in defending his or her property, or the precise magnitude of restitution paid to a victim in specific circumstances. These questions, of course, cannot be answered through natural rights theory (except for maybe the property rights one), but it is not a failure of the concept of natural rights that it cannot answer questions that lie beyond its scope! Such questions can only be answered by the individual arbiters in a given system (anarchic or not), and in the case of private law, a natural rights libertarian is in the position to contract with arbitration firms that best conform to libertarian ethics.

This last point was addressed in a simple but profound article by Ben Powell. In You Are an Anarchist. The Question Is How Often? Dr. Powell points out that, even for people who are classically liberal for natural rights reasons, No system will perfect human morality. And, because it is costly to monitor and prevent deviant behavior, some such behavior will exist under any governance system. So even a well-functioning anarchy would still have rights violations. The question remains one of comparative institutions. It would be nave to assume that even the purist libertarian political system (say, anarchy) would usher in a state of perfect and universal adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle; nirvana is not for this world. Muggers will still mug, and killers will still kill. The question is not how do we avoid these rights violations completely? The question is merely what society would best deal with them? What society would minimize rights violations? The natural rights philosophy does not give us the answers to how all the precise nuances of a legal structure will manifest, but it does give us a means of judging whatever legal systems emerge in the absence of government.

But to even ask these questions, one must first establish and defend the concept of rights at all. The libertarians who adhere to natural rights doctrines are simply arguing that in order to make the world we inhabit a better place, we have to have some means of establishing what that actually is, and that necessitates an ethical philosophy. These libertarians are not arguing for natural rights because they are libertarian; rather, they are libertarian because they recognize natural rights. Ignoring these ethics does not make libertarianism more practical, it just eliminates libertarianism altogether. All that is left in Brink Lindseys pragmatic world is the arbitrary political position that government should be smaller to some vague extent, and this would be good for reasons we have no means of offering.

Only in the world of Brink Lindsey is this approach to libertarianism more determinate than the philosophy of natural rights.

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Natural-Law Libertarianism And The Pursuit Of Justice – The Liberty Conservative

Is Libertarianism a ‘Stealth Plan’ To Destroy America? – Reason (blog)

Viking, AmazonAs its title suggests, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by Duke historian Nancy MacLean, is filled with all sorts of melodramatic flourishes and revelations of supposed conspiracies. Chains, deep history, radicals, stealthis this nonfiction or an Oliver Stone film? Even the cover depicts a smoke-filled room filled with ample-chinned, shadowy figures! This book, virtually every page announces, isn’t simply about the Nobel laureate economist James Buchanan and his “public choice” theory, which holds in part that public-sector actors are bound by the same self-interest and desire to grow their “market share” as private-sector actors are.

No, MacLean is after much-bigger, more-sinister game, documenting what she believes is

the utterly chilling story of the ideological origins of the single most powerful and least understood threat to democracy today: the attempt by the billionaire-backed radical right to undo democratic governance…[and] a stealth bid to reverse-engineer all of America, at both the state and the national levels, back to the political economy and oligarchic governance of midcentury Virginia, minus the segregation.

The billionaires in question, of course, are Koch brothers Charles and David, who have reached a level of villainy in public discourse last rivaled by Sacco and Vanzetti. (David Koch is a trustee of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website; Reason also receives funding from the Charles Koch Foundation.) Along the way, MacLean advances many sub-arguments, such as the notion that the odious, hypocritical, and archly anti-capitalistic 19th-century slavery apologist John C. Calhoun is the spirit animal of contemporary libertarianism. In fact, Buchanan and the rest of us all are nothing less than “Calhoun’s modern understudies.”

Such unconvincing claims (“the Marx of the Master Class,” as Calhoun was dubbed by Richard Hofstadter, was openly hostile to the industrialism, wage labor, and urbanization that James Buchanan took for granted) are hard to keep track of, partly because of all the rhetorical smoke bombs MacLean is constantly lobbing. In a characteristic example, MacLean early on suggests that libertarianism isn’t “merely a social movement” but “the story of something quite different, something never before seen in American history”:

Could it beand I use these words quite hesitantly and carefullya fifth-column assault on American democratic governance?

Calling attention to the term’s origins to describe Franco’s covert, anti-modern allies in the Spanish Civil War, MacLean writes

the term “fifth column” has been applied to stealth supporters of an enemy who assist by engaging in propaganda and even sabotage to prepare the way for its conquest. It is a fraught term among scholars, not least because the specter of a secretive, infiltrative fifth column has been used in instrumental ways by the powerful such as in the Red Scare of the Cold War era to conjure fear and lead citizens and government to close ranks against dissent, with grave costs for civil liberties. That, obviously, is not my intent in using the term….

And yet it’s the only term up for MacLean’s job, since “the concept of a fifth column does seem to be the best one available for capturing what is distinctive in a few key dimensions about this quest to ensure the supremacy of capital.” Sure, “fifth column” is a dirty, lowdown, suspect term among historians because using it trades in hysteria at the service of the ruling class rather than rational analysis intended to help the downtrodden. But come on, people, we’re in a twilight struggle here, with a movement whose goals have included, among other things, ending censorship; opening the borders to goods and people from around the world; abolishing the draft and reducing militarism; legalizing abortion, drugs, and alternative lifestyles; reforming criminal justice and sentencing; focusing on how existing government operations, especially K-12 schools, have hurt poor and minority Americans; and doing away with occupational licensing and other barriers to entry for business owners, among other things. So much for hesitation on MacLean’s part. Fifth column it is! As for carefulness, it’s worth noting in passing that MacLean identifies former Attorney General Ed Meese and foreign-policy hawk Bill Kristol as libertarians, which must be as much of a shock to them as it is to, well, actual libertarians.

Clearly this sort of book, published by a major house (Viking) and written by an eminent historian (MacLean is a chaired professor at Duke and author of highly regarded books), is ideological catnip to people who dislike libertarianism and its growing influence in politics and culture. At the increasingly hard-left New Republic, Alex Shephard introduces an interview with MacLean by writing that Democracy in Chains “exposes the frightening intellectual roots of the radical right, as well as its ultimate ambition: to erode American democracy.” At NPR, novelist Genevieve Valentine writes

As MacLean lays out in their own words, these men developed a strategy of misinformation and lying about outcomes until they had enough power that the public couldn’t retaliate against policies libertarians knew were destructive. (Look no further than Flint, MacLean says, where the Koch-funded Mackinac Center was behind policies that led to the water crisis.)

Let’s leave aside the fact that Flint’s water supply contamination was due to decades of local mismanagement and a stimulus project gone wrong, hardly the sort of thing that mustache-twirling libertarians espouse. And let’s ignore the shibboleth Koch-funded for the time being (go here for a realistic appraisal of the Kochs’ influence on the modern libertarian movement). Democracy in Chains is chicken soup for the souls of liberals, progressives, and members of the “resistance” who want to believe that libertarians don’t just want to destroy or reform ineffective and inefficient public-sector agencies and institutions, but actually want to kill people or destroy them irreparably. Because really, how else can you make a buck in a free market, right?

If liberals and leftists are uncritically celebrating MacLean’s attack, scholars and writers with specific and general knowledge of Buchanan’s work and libertarianism are taking a more jaundiced view. Reason will be publishing a review-essay in the coming weeks but in the interim, here’s a survey of some of the sharpest rejoinders to date.

Historian Phillip W. Magness, trained at Buchanan’s former perch of George Mason University, takes particular issue with MacLean’s linking of Buchanan to characters such as Calhoun and the poet Donald Davidson, the leader of the self-styled Fugitives and Agrarians in the 20th-century South. Like Calhoun, the Agrarians treated capitalism and modernity with contempt, as a sort of mirror image of an equally soulless and totalitarian communism. MacLean asserts that Davidson, who railed against an increasingly centralized “Leviathan” state, was central to Buchanan’s worldview. But Magness notes that Buchanan never studied with him nor ever quoted him in his collected works. As with her non-hesitant, careless use of “fifth column,” MacLean’s real purpose in linking Buchanan with Davidson is to smear the former. Writes Magness:

MacLean has a very specific reason for making this claim, and she returns to it at multiple points in her book. The Agrarians, in addition to spawning a southern literary revival (the novelist Robert Penn Warren was one of their members), were also segregationists. By connecting them to Buchanan, she bolsters one of the primary charges of her book: an attempt to link Buchanan’s economic theories to a claimed resentment over Brown v. Board and the subsequent defeat of racial segregation in 1960s Virginia.

In another post, Magness notes when MacLean tries to link Buchanan to Calhoun, she instead starts citing work by Murray Rothbard, who actually was harshly critical of Buchanan. This sort of slippery maneuver permeates Democracy in Chains, as Case Western’s Jonathan Adler documents at the Volokh Conspiracy blog in The Washington Post. At Medium, Russ Roberts writes about MacLean’s treatment of George Mason economist Tyler Cowen, who also directs the Koch-funded Mercatus Center. MacLean suggests that Cowen welcomes the weakening of governmental checks and balances because doing so supports her thesis that libertarians want to take over the government by “stealth.” As Roberts points out, MacLean is guilty of intellectual malpractice:

MacLean left out the word “While” that begins Cowen’s sentence. Then she left off the key qualifier that completes the sentencethe point that the downside risk of weakening checks and balances is substantial. There is nothing here suggesting Cowen is in favor of weakening democracy or the Constitution. By quoting only a piece of Cowen’s sentence, MacLean reverses his meaning.

Unfortunately, MacLean does not just quote Cowen out of context. She ignores anything in Cowen’s essay that conflicts with her portrayal of Cowen as a sinister enemy of American institutions and democracy.

MacLean’s Duke colleague, the political scientist Michael Munger, has authored the most exhaustive and harshly critical review of Democracy in Chains to date. Writing for the Independent Institute, Munger damningly characterizes the book as

a work of speculative historical fiction. There is considerable research underpinning the speculation, and since MacLean is careful about footnoting only things that actually did happen she cannot be charged with fabricating facts. But most of the book, and all of its substantive conclusions, are idiosyncratic interpretations of the facts that she selects from a much larger record, as is common in the speculative-history genre. There is nothing wrong about speculation, of course, but there is nothing persuasive about it either, in terms of drawing reliable conclusions about history.

The entire essay comes as close to required reading as any libertarian would decree. Munger is not simply scoring points or picking apart the argument made by someone from a different tribe or camp; he’s actually laying bare how ideologically motivated texts paper over gaps in evidence and logic by focusing on small details to the exclusion of actually giving an accurate view of the larger picture. In the grip of a thesis she wants to be true, MacLean simply sifts through huge amounts of data and evidence, keeping only small chips of bones and fossils that she can use to construct a skeleton with which to scare people who already agree with her.

The contribution of Democracy in Chains…is to do two things…: Identify James Buchanan as the focal point of the revolution, and identify the content of Public Choice research and teaching as anti-Constitutional and anti-democratic…. Buchanan did not believe in unlimited majority rule. But then, as Buchanan often rightly said, nobody believes in unlimited majority rule. Democracy is and must be a balancing of, on the one hand, the rights of minorities, and, on the other, the ability of the majority to have its way within the domain established as “political” by the constitution. That’s another thing that is remarkable about Democracy in Chains: MacLean does not assign Buchanan a straw man position. She (correctly) gives Buchanan’s position as being the mainstream view, the one that everyone actually agrees with. And then she tries to defend the straw man position, the one that no one actually believes. Remarkable. The position she assigns Buchanan is this: He thought that democracy should be limited, to protect minorities. Um…okay. Yes, that’s right. We all believe that.

Which isn’t to say that Munger finds no value in the book:

Democracy in Chains is well-written, and the research it contains is both interesting and in many cases illuminating. But as an actual history, as a reliable account of the centrality of the work of James Buchanan in a gigantic conspiracy designed to end democracy in America, it turns far away from its mark. It is the story of an alternative past that never actually happened.

Despite its central failings, I too found the book interesting, if mostly as a way of understanding the ways in which libertarian thought is considered by those hostile to it. Ultimately, Democracy in Chains reveals less about a not-so-shadowy group of people who, as a t-shirt puts it, are “diligently plotting to take over the World and leave you alone” and more about progressives and liberals who choose to live in a dream world.

Other takes worth a read include ones by Jonah Goldberg, David Bernstein, David Henderson, Steve Horwitz, and Jason Brennan.

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Is Libertarianism a ‘Stealth Plan’ To Destroy America? – Reason (blog)

Why Did the Southern States Secede? | Libertarianism.org

Introduction

It has long been conventional wisdom among certain libertarians and classical liberal historians that the southern Confederacy was a great bastion of Jeffersonianism. In the South, many twentieth-century libertarians thought they had found a political culture supporting free trade (especially through low tariffs) and limited government (using the vehicle of States Rights). This view, however, ultimately rests on a privileged selection of the evidence and a good deal of historical forgetfulness, most likely the result of twentieth-century history more so than anything from the nineteenth. To correct such mistakes, we will examine in depth the documents through which southern states proclaimed themselves free and independent of the Union government to discover the reasons they themselves offered for doing so. While most states in the Confederacy simply passed Ordinances of Secession, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia passed additional Declarations of Causes, offering invaluable insight into the conventions political machinations and motivations. As the first state to secede, South Carolinas Declarations established precedent and unabashedly claimed that the primary reason for secession remained the refusal of northern states to comply with the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott(1857) decision.

We begin with South Carolinas explanation of the legal and historical basis for state secession, emphasizing the existence of the states as prior to the existence of the Union, which was in fact a new government created by thirteen sovereign and independent states. In creating this government, South Carolina declared, the states did not transfer their sovereignty and retained the right to dissolve the compact:

The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue

After their unanimous declaration of independence in 1776, thirteen sovereign and independent new states assumed their positions among fellow nations of the world. By 1783, these new countries had formed a confederated government in which each party retained sovereignty. In the Treaty of Paris, King George III recognized each former colony as a separate belligerent, the sovereignty of each now internationally undisputed.

In 1787, Deputies were appointed by the States to revise the Articles of Confederation, and on 17th September, 1787, these Deputies recommended for the adoption of the States, the Articles of Union, known as the Constitution of the United States.

The parties to whom this Constitution was submitted, were the several sovereign States

Despite the persistence of Neo-Confederate myths about the alleged prevalence of Jeffersonian political philosophy, southern intellectual and political culture gradually (though often in the form of punctuated equilibrium) shed Jeffersons key premises of natural law and rights for several decades before the Civil War. Southerners developed in its place an indigenous form of political pragmatism based in the sovereignty of individual states. It is perhaps most important to note that the shift from natural law to states rights arguments that characterized southern political life, ca. 1800-1860, implied the denial of the universal sovereignty of individuals while upholding the sovereignty of constituted governments. As the state governments were the parties to the Constitution (neitherthe whole peoplenorthe Union created or ratified the Constitution), state governments were bound to honor the compact. South Carolina charges, however, that frequent northern-state refusals to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act have effectively nullified the constitutional contract which bound the states. It was, therefore, a formality for South Carolina to declare herself independent.

In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations [with respect to the Fugitive Slave Clause and Fugitive Slave Act of 1850]

For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution

Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

It is not the tariff, not the erosion of state authority in the face of a federal juggernaut, not the safety of Jeffersonian republicanism against Lincolnian Leviathan which prompted South Carolinian secession. Clearly and undoubtedly, South Carolina identified the failure of northern states to abide by thenationalFugitive Slave Act as the primary motivating factor for secession, especially given the recent (1860) rise to power of a political party committed to keeping the national territories free of slavery. Lincoln was elected without a single vote from the South (in most southern states the Republican Party did not appear on ballots), and nothing signaled the death of southern (or slaveholding) power within the Union more than the election of a president without even consulting southern opinion on the matter. The South Carolina declaration concluded:

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the *forms* of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free, and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

When Georgia proclaimed its independence and, in keeping with American tradition, listed its grievances against the Union government, it also noted the overriding and primary importance of protecting slavery over all else. Importantly, Georgias declaration noted first the influence and impact of northern abolitionists both on national politics and the potential security of southern society, continuing to highlight proslavery themes in the pattern established by South Carolina:

For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the RepublicThe party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state

Georgias Declaration built upon the South Carolina example by examining in-depth the methods by which northerners had used the national government to exploit the South. To many, such arguments have been evidence of southern beliefs in the principles of free markets, limited government, and a free society. Such a reading of southern history, however, fails to account for the way in which anti-Union arguments were ultimately subsidiary to pro-slavery arguments. In no way could we consider the southern or Confederate project as an extension of Jeffersonian, essentiallylibertarian, principles:

The material prosperity of the North was greatly dependent on the Federal Government; that of the South not at all. In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade.

Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury

The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors..and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country.

But when these reasons ceased they were no less clamorous for Government protection, but their clamors were less heeded the country had put the principle of protection upon trial and condemned it. After having enjoyed protection to the extent of from 15 to 200 per cent. upon their entire business for above thirty years, the act of 1846 was passed. It avoided sudden change, but the principle was settled, and free trade, low duties, and economy in public expenditures was the verdict of the American people. The South and the Northwestern States sustained this policy. There was but small hope of its reversal; upon the direct issue, none at all.

Yes, the document complained that northerners had long used their disproportionate power in the House of Representatives to forcibly and unconstitutionally channel wealth from the South northward. Yes, Georgia noted the corrupting influence of moneyed and business interests on northern politics. Yes, the secessionists singled out the tariff as a key indicator of northern power and the will to exploit southerners.But as Georgia recognized, the South gradually won each of those issues, culminating in the anti-protectionist Walker Tariff of 1846. It was only then that the economic and political interests throughout the North began looking for a new cause to agitate:

All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for successWe had acquired a large territory by successful war with Mexico; Congress had to govern it; how, in relation to slavery, was the question then demanding solution. This state of facts gave form and shape to the anti-slavery sentiment throughout the North and the conflict began. Northern anti-slavery men of all parties asserted the right to exclude slavery from the territory by Congressional legislation and demanded the prompt and efficient exercise of this power to that end. This insulting and unconstitutional demand was met with great moderation and firmness by the South. We had shed our blood and paid our money for its acquisition; we demanded a division of it on the line of the Missouri restriction or an equal participation in the whole of it. These propositions were refused, the agitation became general, and the public danger was great. The case of the South was impregnable. The price of the acquisition was the blood and treasure of both sections of all, and, therefore, it belonged to all upon the principles of equity and justice

It was, in sum, the combination of classic northern Clay-Lincoln Whigs and long-time antislavery activists from across the entire political spectrum into a single great (and successful) antislavery party that prompted Georgias secession, and decidedlynotLincolns position on the tariff or other questions of economic liberty. Because the ruling party (as of Lincolns election) refused to recognize the legitimacy of property in slaves in the national territories and half of the states, the southern political class resolved to secede and establish a nation of their own, specifically dedicated to protecting the most special of all special interests in the region, property in slaves:

This is the party to whom the people of the North have committed the Government. They raised their standard in 1856 and were barely defeated. They entered the Presidential contest again in 1860 and succeeded

The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization.

For forty years this question has been considered and debated in the halls of Congress, before the people, by the press, and before the tribunals of justice. The majority of the people of the North in 1860 decided it in their own favor. We refuse to submit to that judgment, and in vindication of our refusal we offer the Constitution of our country and point to the total absence of any express power to exclude us

The people of Georgia have ever been willing to stand by this bargain, this contract; they have never sought to evade any of its obligations; they have never hitherto sought to establish any new government; they have struggled to maintain the ancient right of themselves and the human race through and by that Constitution. But they know the value of parchment rights in treacherous hands, and therefore they refuse to commit their own to the rulers whom the North offers us. Why? Because by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides

Mississippi left virtually no room to mistake her purposes in seceding from the United States, declaring that slavery, particularly slavery of the black race, is decreed by nature and in fact perfectly consonant with naturalistic, scientifically-informed and realistic views of the modern industrial economy.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.

It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.

It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.

It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.

It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.

It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.

Radical abolitionists from David Walker to John Brown and Lysander Spooner worked diligently for decades to disrupt and revolutionize southern slave society. Only the ascension of the Republican Party to national power provided them sufficient legal and military cover to seriously challenge slaverys existence.

It has recently obtained control of the Government, by the prosecution of its unhallowed schemes, and destroyed the last expectation of living together in friendship and brotherhood.

Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.

Texas, of course, had the distinction of being the sole sister-republic to join the Union by treatya fact of critical importance to Texas compact theory of the Union. Regardless of the legal propriety of Texas secession, the Texan Declarations reasons for embracing secession as more than a theoretical possibility are rooted in the same racist fears for the future of slavery as the previous declarations:

Texaswas received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slaveholding States

The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [i.e. the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact

Texas follows Mississippi in maintaining the naturalism and scientific righteousness of their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery. According to the Texas Declaration, northerners erred in proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. In the final estimation of the state of Texas, the Republican ascension to power was once again the primary motivating factor in recommending immediate secession from the Union. Republican power signaled northern willingness to protect abolitionist agitators throughout the Union while restricting slavery to its current borders:

They have for years past encouraged and sustained lawless organizations to steal our slaves and prevent their recapture, and have repeatedly murdered Southern citizens while lawfully seeking their rendition.

They have invaded Southern soil and murdered unoffending citizens, and through the press their leading men and a fanatical pulpit have bestowed praise upon the actors and assassins in these crimes, while the governors of several of their States have refused to deliver parties implicated and indicted for participation in such offenses, upon the legal demands of the States aggrieved.

They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides.

They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose.

They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.

Notice that this previous statement is the first and only time one of the seceding states has cited economic exploitation by the North in isolation from the slavery issue as a reason for seceding. Yet, nestled as it is in a bed of proslavery justifications for secession, it hardly serves as a sufficiently libertarian reason to support the Confederate project.

They have refused to vote appropriations for protecting Texas against ruthless savages, for the sole reason that she is a slave-holding State.

Lincolns victory, once again, was the final blow to southern safety within the Union:

In view of these and many other facts, it is meet that our own views should be distinctly proclaimed.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights;* that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.

In fact, at the very end of our survey of Declarations of Causes, only Virginias refused to dwell on the subject of slavery. Virginia does not spend ink justifying slavery, nor deprecating the rights of Africans or African Americansthat only whites had rights in Virginia was simply assumed. Rather, the documents focus is on the unconstitutional actions of the Lincoln administration and the resultant nullification of the federal compact. It is the compact theory of the Union boiled to a point, rigidly applied to a serious situation confronting Virginians, employed only after political means of resolving the sectional conflict clearly failed to resolve the fundamental conflict between northern Free Society and southern Slave Society.

The people of Virginiahaving declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the Union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

While discussions of the future safety of slavery dominated the Virginia secession convention throughout the Spring of 1861, fretful worrying about slaverys future turned to fearful reaction after Fort Sumter and Lincolns call for volunteers to invade the Confederacy. By then, what appeared to many Virginians as yet another deeply divisive, but eminently compromisable political problem transmogrified into a consolidationist-abolitionist invasion of the South. The Virginia Declaration, therefore, well represents what has been called The Myth of the Lost Cause, the notion that secession was really all about maintaining classic, Jeffersonian, liberal government in the face of Leviathan-from-the-North. Yet even lurking behind Virginias rather tame proclamation were fears of slave rebellion and class revolution against planters in particular and white southerners more broadly. Even when the Old Dominion slowly rose to the occasion, she did so to defend slavery from the constant stream of abolitionist threats to southern social order.

While libertarians are often anxious to find a hero among a sea of bad actors in the Civil War period, I would suggest that we are on far better ground in asserting that neither the Union nor the Confederate governments actually represented the interests and wills of the average northern or southern Americans, much less the views of we modern libertarians (or even our closest contemporary ancestors, the Loco-Focos). Both sides, in fact, sought to use the force and power of the national government to defend special, sectional interests and fought a horrifyingly destructive war to protect powerful, quickly-centralizing nation-states: one built on finance capital and industry, one built on finance capital and plantation slavery.While there were indeed plenty of heroes alive in the antebellum and Civil War eras, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that Lincolns main enemies were necessarily our own friends.

South CarolinaMoore, ed. The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, etc. Vol. I, New York, 1866-1871, 176-177.

GeorgiaOfficial Records, Ser IV, vol 1, pp. 81-85.

MississippiJournal of the State Convention, and Ordinances and Resolutions Adopted in January, 1861 with an Appendix, Jackson, Mississippi: E. Barksdale, State Printers, 1861, 86-88.

TexasE. W. Winkler, ed. Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas, 1861, Austin: Austin Printing Company, 1912, 61-66.

VirginiaMoore, ed. The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, etc. Vol. I, New York, 1866-1871, 243-244.

Banning, Lance.The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1978.

Bensel, Richard.Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1990.

Brugger, Robert.Beverly Tucker: Heart Over Head in the Old South. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1978.

Burin, Eric.Slavery and the Peculiar Solution: A History of the American Colonization Society. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.

Channing, Steven.Crisis of Fear: Secession in South Carolina. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1970.

Coussons, John Stafford. Thirty Years with Calhoun, Rhett, and the Charleston Mercury: A Chapter in South Carolina Politics. Ph.D. Dissertation. Louisiana State University, 1971.

Davis, Jefferson.The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1881.

Dew,Apostles of Secession, North and South 4, No. 4 (April 2001): 24-38.

Horsman, Reginald.Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981.

Eaton, Clement.Freedom of Thought in the Old South. Durham: Duke University Press. 1940.

Eaton, Clement.The Mind of the Old South. Louisiana State University Press. 1964.

Ericson, David.The Debate Over Slavery: Antislavery and Proslavery Liberalism in Antebellum America. New York: New York University Press. 2000.

Finkelman, Paul, ed.Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South, A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins. 2003.

Freehling, William.The Road to Disunion, Volume I: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1990.

Freehling, William.The Road to Disunion, Vol. II: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2007.

Hummel, Jeffrey Rogers.Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War. Chicago: Open Court, 1996.

Ingersoll, Thomas.Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans: The First Slave Society in the Deep South, 1716-1819. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1999.

Krohn, Raymond. Antebellum South Carolina Reconsidered: The Libertarian World of Robert J. Turnbull. The Journal of the Historical Society 9. No. 1 (March 2009).

Majewski, John. Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2009.

Thornton, J. Mills.Politics and Power in a Slave Society: Alabama, 1800-1860. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 1978.

Rothbard, Murray. Americas Two Just Wars: 1775 and 1861. inThe Costs of War: Americas Pyrric Victories, ed. John V. Denson. New Brunswick, NJ.: Transaction, 1997.

McKitrick, Eric, ed.Slavery Defended: The Views of the Old South. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 1963.

Merk, Frederick,Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History: A Reinterpretation. New York: Knopf, 1963.

Niven, John.John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union: A Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993.

Pollard, Edward.The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates. New York: E. B. Treat & Co. Publishers, 1866.

Woodward, C. Vann. Introduction, in George Fitzhugh,Cannibals All! or Slaves Without Masters. Baltimore, 1959.

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Why Did the Southern States Secede? | Libertarianism.org

Nancy MacLean’s Ideologically Motivated Shortcuts – National Review

In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid theres that great bit about the super-posse that chases the outlaws. Theyre led by a legendary law man, Joe Lefors, and an Indian Scout (Lord Baltimore), who can follow horse tracks over rock and water.

I mention this because if I were Nancy MacLean, Id much rather have Lefors and Lord Baltimore coming after me than to have Don Boudreaux, Steve Horwitz, Jonathan Adler, Russ Roberts, and the rest of the libertarian super-posse on my ass.

You may have missed the story. The short version is that historian Nancy MacLean has written a book, apparently with some government funding, in which she argues that Nobel Prizewinning economist James Buchanan was part of a Kochtopussian Kabal of Konfederates who were direct intellectual descendants of the Southern Agrarians and the champion of slavery, John C. Calhoun.

I first heard about the book almost two weeks ago, and my immediate response was to roll my eyes (figuratively speaking). I figured the book would vanish from the radar because it all sounded so silly. David Bernstein had a similar reaction:

When I first came across this book and interviews with its author, I was immediately skeptical. For one thing, Ive been traveling in libertarian intellectual circles for about three decades, and my strong impression is that Buchanan, while a giant in economics, is something of a marginal figure in the broader libertarian and free-market movements.

Now, I am at best a fellow traveler in those circles, but Ive been writing about and, on occasion, arguing with, libertarians for a couple decades. And while Buchanans name came up every now and then, I had never once heard even the suggestion that he was a kind of intellectual lodestar for political libertarianism never mind that he was part of some reactionary Confederate tradition. He was that brilliant public-choice-theory guy. (As Bernstein notes, Buchanan gets a few respectful cameos in Brian Dohertys exhaustive history of libertarianism and thats about it).

MacLean has gotten herself into hot water because its already clear she cut a lot of corners, quoting people out of context, asserting intellectual lineages that do not exist, and other misdeeds. Russ Roberts, who is a kind of libertarian Gandhi strictly adhering to a policy of rhetorical non-violence started things off with his defense of Tyler Cowen, who MacLean essentially defamed. Worse, Don Boudreaux, the brilliant and tenacious libertarian scholar and cheeky letter writer, is now coming after her and her enablers like a spider monkey.

As my friend Steve Horwitz writes:

Finding examples of misleading, incorrect, and outright butcheredquotes and citations in Nancy MacLeans new book about James Buchanan, Democracy in Chains, has become the academic version of Pokemon Go this week.

Im all for fact checking her footnotes and outrageously misleading quotations. Every time I see a new one, I link to it on Twitter with the prediction, There will be more. And there will be. There will be for the simple reason that MacLean takes Buchanans life and libertarianism, generally out of context in order to argue that libertarianism is against democracy and that sinister libertarians have been scheming to tear it all down. In other words, you have to take quotes and facts out of context if you start with a premise that takes Buchanan out of context.

To be sure, theres an anti-democratic element in some corners of libertarianism, but as far as I can tell, that is true of every single political philosophy save pure majoritarianism. And, unlike pure majoritarians, libertarians are far more concerned with freedom and equality because they understand unrestrained majorities tend to treat minorities very poorly, particularly the minority of the individual.

Indeed, this is all downstream of the century-old effort to turn Herbert Spencer into some kind of monster because he opposed governmental social engineering. The idea seems to be that because the statists are good, anyone who opposes them must be evil.

The contemporary liberal obsession with claiming that their ideological opponents must be somehow in league with, or modern-day reincarnations of, Klansmen and slavers is just another manifestation of this old, self-indulgent smear. Its a bit like MacLean set out to reach that destination. When she realized she couldnt get there by conventional navigation, she put a magnet marked Calhoun! or Slavery! next to her compass, and that did the trick.

Conservatives are bit more accustomed to this sort of thing. Ramesh and I beat back a similar attempt to claim that modern conservatism is a Calhoun cult a few years ago.

But I think the assumption behind both efforts is very much the same: Anyone who disagrees with us must not simply be wrong, they must be evil. And taking shortcuts to expose evil is no vice.

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Nancy MacLean’s Ideologically Motivated Shortcuts – National Review