Thin Libertarianism and Tory Anarchism

It’s a small bit annoying that the libertarian creed has to constantly be restated to self-described libertarians who do not understand the relationship between libertarianism qua political theory and extra-libertarian commitments related to social and cultural concerns.

That is to say, as the libertarian movement moves further into a more popular position, there are many libertarians who popularize libertarianism without being precise enough, thus leading to misunderstandings of libertarian luminaries who seek to address a wide variety of issues beyond the narrow bounds of political theory.

Chief among such “luminaries,” of course, is Hans-Hermann Hoppe, disciple of Murray Rothbard and foremost defender of the Misesian-Rothbardian Austro-libertarian edifice. Hoppe, a philosopher interested in subjects as various as ethics, political theory, praxeology, epistemology, and sociology, is among the most precise contributors to the cause of liberty. Despite such precision, he is more often misunderstood than most.

The most common misunderstanding of Hoppe comes when he seeks to leave the realm of strict libertarianism as a theory of interpersonal property conflicts, and talk about “libertarian strategy;” that is, how to achieve success in the struggle against Statism in our time and work toward a truly private property order. Libertarianism as a political theory offers a specific arrangement of property rights which includes deductively discovered norms for what should be legal (not subject to coercive prosecutorial response) and criminal/illegal (subject to coercive prosecutorial response).

Libertarianism is summarized by (not “founded on”— as some misunderstand it [i.e. Austin Petersen]) the “non-aggression principle,” which is basically that no individual is allowed to initiate aggression against the person and property of non-criminal (as defined by the libertarian theory) individuals.

Libertarianism does not, qua libertarianism, speak to culture and social preferences, empirical movements, relationships to the status quo, the goodness of religion as a social influence, the family unit, and so on. In this sense then, libertarianism is neither conservative nor “liberal;” it is neither “right nor left;” it is neither “pro-family” nor “anti-family.” It is merely a thin and narrow legal doctrine relating to interpersonal conflict and property norms.

Now the libertarian may have interest in extra-libertarian issues— that is, the libertarian thinks about a wide array of subjects and he therefore sometimes considers economics, mathematics, aesthetics, history, sociology, and so on. However, when people like Hoppe leave the strict field of political theory, there are some who point the finger at him to being unlibertarian. It is clear how absurd such an accusation is. Does the libertarian who is also interested in culinary practices betray libertarianism in pursuing other interests?

Thus, when Hoppe discusses the relationship between libertarianism and sociology in the course of considering the extra-libertarian topic of “libertarian strategy,” it is equally absurd to think he is “adding to” libertarian principles. Libertarian strategy (how to attain a more free society) is distinct from libertarian theory (the definition and justification of libertarian principles).

In our time, one of the more egregious “social sins” is taking a principle to its logical conclusion. We live in the age of intellectual moderation, of fearing to offend the perpetually offended, of refusing to chase an idea to its logical conclusion but instead compromising truths so as to satisfy the “mainstream.” In this way, murder, theft, battery, forms of slavery, aggressions, are considered tolerable and praiseworthy. Thus, democratic statism, among the most morally and economically horrific systems devised by man, is in the mainstream considered the ideal to which we all must strive.

Any desire to combat such a system by intellectually challenging the morality or economics of it is dismissed as “extremism.” And yet, for the logically consistent, not taken to political correctness and moderation for its own sake, what is wrong about taking things to their logical conclusion? If we are to be “extremely consistent” or “radically precise,” shouldn’t it be praiseworthy to be a “radical?” If radicalism means that we refuse to stop our reasoning at some arbitrary point, if it means that we refuse to accept something simply because it is fashionable, then perhaps man ought to be radical: radically consistent, radically logical, radically reasonable, radically truth-oriented. Radicalism per se is not the enemy.

If the logical conclusion of the right to private property is an anti-statism position, then we ought to hold to that, regardless of what the mainstream fear-mongers and guards of approved opinion have to say. “Anarchism” can mean a number of things, not all of them praiseworthy for the libertarian; but if anarchism is defined in a way that is consistent with private property order, then that is where we should end up. We must be uncompromising in our application of logic, unafraid of where it might take us.

Now, in being radicals intellectually, there are some self-described anarchists who think they must be radical in relationship to empirical society. That is, if there are certain social institutions, such as businesses, churches, councils, property rights enforcement agencies, and so on, that have a long standing place in the social structure of a given community, these must be confronted, challenged, and opposed on the basis that hierarchies and traditions are social ills.

But being intellectually radical (taking something to its logical conclusion) in regards to property rights, does not mean we must therefore be radicals in our praxeological treatment of everything that exists. What I mean by this is that the intellectually radical position of taking property rights to their logical conclusion does not imply per se that longstanding social institutions are bad. In fact, since society must be considered in light of a great many topics, not just ones related simply to property rights, sociology itself is incomplete if we refuse to go beyond the strict boundaries of political theory.

To skip the actual justification of my social preferences and opinions, let me conclude by expressing support for what might be considered and older, more traditionalist stance on social concerns. If there are those “libertarians” who push for a social view of progressivism and multiculturalism, then let me compare that with my own stance of traditionalist culturalism. In the left-libertarian view, it is per se better for a society to be multicultural— such multiculturalism being an end in itself. It is per se better for a society to embrace LGBT trends and per se better if traditional views on religion and the family unit are left to the dustpan of history. Contra this left-libertarian tendency, my own stance is that there is nothing per se good about multiculturalism. LGBT and anti-religious trends are harmful for civilization. In preference for “old fashioned” habits and norms, I reject the social movements which seek to upend traditional tendencies on gender, the family unit, and instead emphasized the supposed goodness of an egalitarian social structure.

For the sake of clarity, and to also differentiate myself from the so-called alt-right (to the extent that such a vague movement can be defined), or at least the way the alt-right is portrayed, it is important to note that there seems to be three different positions on multiculturalism and the like:

  • Modern Leftism: multiculturalism and racial diversity are per se needed and good.
  • The alt-right: multiculturalism and racial diversity are per se dangerous and bad

This is a false dichotomy. My own position is as follows:

  • Traditional Social Conservatism: There is nothing per se good nor per se bad about multiculturalism; it simply is, or it is not. And a society which is racially diverse (i.e. in major cities, such as early twentieth century Vienna where Mises grew up) is not inherently superior or inferior to a society that happens to be racially homogenous (rural Alabama). What matters is ideas, and society is good or bad in accordance with its commitment to truth and goodness.

Unfortunately, the leftists have categorized everyone who is not a leftist into the second group, leaving no home for the actually traditional conservatives. Contrary to leftist fear mongering, there actually is a difference between paleo-conservatives such as Paul Gottfried and Hans Hoppe on one side and Richard Spencer on the other. The former two do not say that society must be divided on racial lines in order to be successful (as proven in Hoppe’s recent PFS speech in which he explicitly castigated white supremacy theory); but the Spencerite movement does indeed advocate a racially segregated society–  hence Gottfried’s point that Spencer is not a traditional conservative (as if we needed more proof that a socialist like Spencer was not a traditionalist).

Western civilization became strong to the extent that its ideas were good; to the extent that it honored the free enterprise system, freedom from the state, adherence and commitment to the truth, logic, and reason. Non-western civilizations remained stagnated simply because they refused to accept a private property order and rejected logic and reason. Man leaves behind the ways of savagery and barbarianism and enters a civilized state to the extent that they are able to contribute to society’s capital stock and embrace reason. All cultures therefore are not “equal” in how civilized and productive they are, even if all individuals are equal before God and natural law. A culture is better when it recognizes natural law and rejects the savagery of cultures past. Culture however, is not race-specific, and therefore saying that some cultures and cultural habits are better than others is not the same as taking the alt-right position that some races are better than others.

This position of social conservatism does not contradict nor add to libertarian property rights theory. If we are anarchists in that we take the principles of liberty to their radical conclusion and are therefore “radicals for capitalism,” but at the same time we are cultural conservatives, opposing the rampant leftism of the progressives around us, we might borrow the Rothbardian phrase of “Tory anarchists” for ourselves. We are social conservatives with a radical commitment to an anti-statism. We embrace traditional western cultural norms and habits, bourgeois mannerisms while cheering the radical anti-statism, pro-property owner, and anti-socialism of anarcho-capitalism.

Libertarianism is thin. Therefore, we can hold to opinions and preferences outside of the libertarian doctrine without compromising our libertarianism.

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