Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Thick Libertarianism, Left Libertarianism, and Strategy

Roderick T. Long debates these topics with Justin Raimondo and JB Murphy on Twitter.

11 comments:

dennis said...

I live in Omaha, NE, which, while it is not exactly the most secular part of the United States, it isn't part of the Bible Belt, so maybe I'm not in the best place to determine what will or will not turn people off from libertarianism. That said, it seems to me that allying libertarianism with social conservatism is a recipe for disaster. In 2000 the voters in my state passed an embarrassing ban on gay marriage. Last year an Omaha World Herald poll found that 55% of the state's voters favored either civil unions or same sex marriage. The fellow who worries about the effect of lifestyle libertarianism on winning the hearts and minds of the American populace has it entirely backward. A libertarian society will certainly support any number of peaceful lifestyle choices, including ones steeped in values I find stifling or outmoded but if you are going to "sell" libertarianism, you're better off emphasizing tolerance and even respect for a wide variety of peaceful lifestyles than apologizing for not wanting to outlaw them.

DissidentRight said...

The younger generation (my generation) trends leftward on social issues, yes.

We also trend towards expanded state power, because of course the two go hand-in-hand for the vast majority of people.

Meanwhile the people who want to shrink state power overwhelmingly trend towards Christian values. This is because the state (particularly the Federal government) is single-handedly responsible for shifting the nation to the left, so Christians (correctly) see the state as their enemy.

(If the original Christian supermajority had retained control of its own educational system (as it would have if American remained broadly libertarian), left-wing social views would still be a tiny minority. Does social justice have anything to say about that?)

If we can somehow unglue popular leftism from statism, all bets are off--otherwise, white Christians are the only significant block of people interested in limiting the state. Refusing to appeal to them seems like the greater disaster.

dennis said...

I don't believe that most of the Christians who express anti-state sentiment would feel the same if they felt more influence over the state. I know there are exceptions (Will Grigg comes to mind) but for the most part I think they would be perfectly fine making sodomy illegal again.

I also respectfully disagree with the idea that had Christians controlled education we would have a more libertarian world. I think this view only looks at the ways we are less free today and ignores the ways we are more free. Furthermore I don't think it was the state that lead to secularism. When governments stopped enforcing religious homogeneity and people were free to believe what they would the Christian consensus was doomed. The state jumped on the bandwagon.

As for ungluing popular statism and leftism, the libertarian movement bears some of the blame for the present situation. In the late 80s we backed the wrong horse by reaching out to the populist right in the hopes that this would lead to a strong anti-interventionist foreign policy wing on the right. For the most part, I don't think this worked very well. Furthermore it lead to some very embarrassing and awful moments in libertarian history (the Ron Paul newsletters, for instance.) Had we spent that same energy trying to convince women, minorities and LGBT people that libertarianism better respected their dignity than Social Democracy ever could, I contend we would be in a much stronger position right now. I could be wrong, but focusing only on how things are now in regards to what group is more prone to anti-state attitudes is to look only at what is seen, ignoring what is not seen.

DissidentRight said...

I also respectfully disagree with the idea that had Christians controlled education we would have a more libertarian world.

That is exactly the opposite of what I said. What I said is that the United States started out libertarian and Christian. If the United States had remained just as libertarian as it started out, no movement to federalize education would have ever been successful, no movement to expel religiosity from schools would have ever been successful, no movement to replace creationism with the theory evolution would have ever been successful, and no movement to teach liberalized sexuality in schools would have ever been successful. Et cetera.

The reason the Leftists looked to concentrate their power in federal government and then expand federal power is precisely because they were a negligible minority with unpopular views.

There would have still been some successful leftward social movements, but only localized and nothing approaching the scale we observe today. The only reason leftism enjoys the support it does is because the left spent the last several generations imposing its views on schoolchildren against the will of their parents. And it was only able to do thanks to an anti-libertarian increase in state power.

I don't believe that most of the Christians who express anti-state sentiment would feel the same if they felt more influence over the state.

The country was founded by Christians who had a deeply suspicious view of the state, as reflected in all of the founding documents and debates. At the time, they were the only ones with any influence. So your view should take that into consideration. However, it may well be that modern Christians, now that the state has become a gargantuan leviathan (who's fault is that?), see the state much as the Left does: as a tool to impose their particular form of justice. Fine. But the fact of the matter is that Christian influence in the state is negligible, except at the local level, and the fact of the matter is that most Christians do want to limit the power of the state. Or the better way to put it: the vast majority of people who want to limit the power of the state are Christians.

When governments stopped enforcing religious homogeneity and people were free to believe what they would the Christian consensus was doomed.

I'm talking about America, the only Christian nation that expressly codified religious freedom. There was never any state church in America. American Christianity was (and is) organic. In Europe, opposition to the state is directly entangled with opposition to the state church. But in America, it's exactly the opposite. Respectfully, the view that secularism would have naturally replaced Christianity in America, without heavy state interference in schools, is hubris. There is no evidence to support this conclusion.

Continued...

DissidentRight said...

Had we spent that same energy trying to convince women, minorities and LGBT people that libertarianism better respected their dignity than Social Democracy ever could, I contend we would be in a much stronger position right now.

The way the Left has spun the tale, women/blacks/LGBTs have been oppressed and deserve special treatment to compensate. But libertarianism has no goodies to hand out. Libertarianism cannot narrow the male-female wage gap, it cannot narrow the black-white gap in crime or education or wages, it cannot carve out a space for LGBTs in a community that strongly disapproves of their behavior. Libertarians would never have tolerated the Civil Rights Act, which makes a mockery of private property.

The state, on the other hand, offers goodies galore. The state can punishes businesses for disparate impact. It can create a culture of affirmative action. It can forcibly bus children to the schools of its choosing. It can systematically cover up black crime (http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/May-2014/Chicago-crime-rates/). It can offer direct employment for historically oppressed groups, in disproportionate numbers and with inflated wages. It can throw out test scores for firefighters if racial quotas aren't met. It can fine photographers who won't service LGBT ceremonies. And a lot of other things.

Surprise: women, blacks and LGBTs overwhelmingly support expanded state power. And white men, as the ones being plundered, naturally trend the other way.

I could be wrong, but focusing only on how things are now in regards to what group is more prone to anti-state attitudes is to look only at what is seen, ignoring what is not seen.

I completely agree that we must consider what is not seen. And what is it that we don't see? We don't see what America would look like if state power had never increased in the first place. But I think we can make a pretty good guess.

In the late 80s we backed the wrong horse by reaching out to the populist right in the hopes that this would lead to a strong anti-interventionist foreign policy wing on the right.

The Cold War is…complicated. You have to keep in mind several things:

1) A tremendous part of why the Left supported non-intervention is because they supported the USSR, at least as the idea of a superstate capable of righting the world's wrongs. That's why so many of the civil rights activists were (and remain) communists, or sympathetic to communism.

2) A tremendous part of why the Right supported intervention is because they believed (correctly) that the USSR was the epitome of leviathan. They believed they were fighting for freedom and limited government. Of course they ended up creating their own leviathan in the process (with the help of the left on domestic policy), but that wasn't the express intention.

3) The American entrance into WWI was deeply unpopular (in America) and it was prosecuted in a highly prejudicial (anglo-friendly) way. A strong case has been made that if Europe had been left to its own devices, as per the instructions of the Founders, world history would have played out very differently: the oppressive conditions that the Nazis capitalized on wouldn't have existed, and the commies would not have been able to swoop in and conquer eastern Europe.

Similarly, if FDR had been less obsessed with starting a war with Japan (this is not to excuse the evilness of what the Japanese were doing), world history would have also played out very differently.

It is not unfair to point out that Wilson and FDR were men of the left, and that they saw the wars as a good way to advance the power of the state in order to achieve leftist goals.

I'm just saying, there's a lot of moving parts to consider, and it's not clear to me that left libertarians are aware of just how influential leftism was in getting the American state to where it is now.

thombrogan said...

The Cold War made simple by H.L. Mencken:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

DissidentRight said...

Imaginary, eh? Tell that to the South Koreans.

Don't get me wrong, I would have let them get conquered out of principle.

shemsky said...

The United States started out libertarian? Seriously, dude, you should read some history. Like the history of blacks and women and Native Americans in the early years of the United States. That should dispel your delusions.

thombrogan said...

There's always Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." However, the reader would have to want to learn and have to keep in mind that Zinn's attacks on 'capitalism' are attacks on what has existed and not on some ideal of a laissez-faire future.

thombrogan said...

This book has a lot of good historical information, too. And though the link in Richman's marginalia asks "What is left-libertarianism?," it's found on Far Right of his blog. ;)

DissidentRight said...

Slavery is incompatible with libertarianism? Wow, thanks for that kernel of wisdom.

Why don't you study the general history of the state, and then compare it the federation that the American colonies signed on to? Claiming that the US didn't start out libertarian is just childish polemics.

The point remains, of course: if not for the state, you would almost certainly be a Christian creationist. If not for the state, there is not the slightest chance that anyone would care about disparate impact. If not for the state, homosexuals would still be discriminated against. If not for leftists, there would be no income tax. If not for leftists, no Americans would have died in WWI or WWII.

The left owes everything to the state, and vice versa. Why break a perfectly good symbiotic relationship?