Nov 032011
 

Libertarian UtopiaLast week on Just Right, Bob Metz and I discussed at length the failing of the Libertarian movement, how it treats a limited government as axiomatic rather than the result of a long chain of logical argument in a complete philosophy.  We discussed how the leaders of the movement are primarily anarchists who suck people into the movement on the promise of implanting a capitalist society based on the respect for individual rights when in fact their real goal is the complete abolition of government and sees all government as evil.  We discussed how there are some who call themselves libertarian but are actually like Bob and myself, advocates for capitalism but from a position that it is not axiomatic as I have mentioned.

I posted my part of last week’s show on my blog at www.robertvaughan.ca and put a link to it on Just Right’s public facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/justrightradio).

It has received a rather lengthy criticism from Glenn Langton who, as I discovered by clicking on his name, was a candidate for the Ontario Libertarian Party in last month’s general election.

I will post Glenn’s comment in its entirety and follow up with some observations of my own.  Observations which I hope will prove my point of last week, that the libertarian movement and indeed the Ontario Libertarian Party is a party which promotes anarchy.

“LOL what a load of absolute bunk! I read the Article and there is a lot of oft repeated definitions that have been thrust upon the Libertarian movement, alot of preconcieved and rediculous notions tossed about by those who fear individual rights and freedoms, a free market economy, a sound financial system based on hard assets. as in any political party or organisation as well as any religious movement or organization there are to be found radical elements, people who have become disenfranchised in some form or another who find thier way to a place where they can find a degree of acceptance, these are by and large the few, of the many, in any organised movement … such is the case with Libertarians the vast majority of libertarians view government as it stands now in its cleverly disguised leftist socialist form as evil and despotic, because it is leftist, evil and despotic, most libertarians believe ther must be a minimal form of governmemt based on principals held in the magna carta, which was the basis for the earliest forms of British common law ” common” being the important word here where the common people may not be subjugated to government or monarchy, where the rule of law is applied fairly and equally to all regardless of social standing, where people are allowed to persue thier lives without interferance as long as they live by the commonly held rules of lawful existance. This was also the basis of the original U.S. Constitution which over the years has become ammended upon ammendments reducing its power to protect the people to less than nil by actually giving the power to the state, just as in Canada the common law has been disgarded in favour of statism 1 pen stroke at a time culminating in the rise of a communist to prime minister and implementing a charter that destroys personal rights and freedoms and gives all power to the oligarchists… If anyone would care to really know what Libertarians would like to achieve for all people please get past this type of rhetoric and talk to some real Libertarians people like Neil Peart, Drew Cary, Clint Eastwood, or myself or any member of the Libertarian party in your area, I would talk to a few…rather than listen to people outside the movement define what we are ( a common political tactic … “define or be defined” being the rule ) I researched for quite awhile and went to speak to people within the movemenmt for a few months before I joined I am none of the things this article states Libertarians are and that is the crux of my post and the issue I have with this article… this person is absolutely incorrect.”

( The post was copied as is.  The layout, typos and grammatical mistakes are those of the author and not mine)

I grant that this is not what I would call a critical review of my article but instead an emotional reaction.  While this is often the norm for comments posted on facebook I would have expected a little more care be put into the rebuttal considering he is someone who ran to become a member of the Provincial Parliament.

To take his last point first, as I explained on last week’s show I was a member and supporter of the Ontario Libertarian Party in 1985 and was asked by one of its most prominent leaders, Kaye Sargent, to run.  I declined the offer.   So, to infer that I am someone who is not familiar with the local movement (at least historically) is incorrect.  With further study, and it didn’t take long, I realized that the Libertarian Party was fundamentally an anarchist movement and not going to get anywhere advocating its anti-government platform.  I stopped supporting the Party that same year.

I will move beyond the more opinionated criticisms, such as calling my article “bunk” and “rediculous” (sic).  As for containing preconceived notions?  I would have to agree.  Many before me have had the notion that libertarianism is anarchism at its root.  In this sense my notions agree with their preconceived ones.

Glenn suggests that my criticisms must come from a fear of individual rights, freedom, and a free market.  All I can say is I guess he doesn’t know me very well and I would suggest he read some of my other articles or perhaps listen to the archived episodes of Just Right.

Glenn admits that like any organization it has it elements of radicals, and the disenfranchised.  Perhaps, but later on I will demonstrate that in the case of libertarianism these radicals and disenchanted are the leaders and intellectuals of the movement.

Glenn believes that government must be based on the principals held in the Magna Carta, and that the document was the basis for the US Constitution.  While I admit I am not a political historian, to suggest that the the Magna Carta or even the US Constitution in its original form should be the basis for a government only goes to demonstrate my point that libertarians take government as an axiom, as a primary.  These legal documents are the end result of, no doubt, many decades of philosophic discussion on the nature of liberty and rights.  They are not primaries but consequences of a broader philosophy.

It is interesting to note that the US Constitution in its original form resulted from the overthrow of a country which had in its own law…the Magna Carta.

Now I promised to demonstrate that in the libertarian movement if it is the few who are the radicals, the disenfranchised or the anarchists, then these few are its leaders and intellectuals; those at the top.

Consider the Leader of Glenn’s own Ontario Libertarian Party, Sam Apelbaum. I quote from Mr. Apelbaum’s “Leader’s Report” of the Spring of this year (http://libertarian.on.ca/spring-2011-vol-31-no-3/leader%E2%80%99s-report-sam-apelbaum).  In it he compares our current political mainstream culture with the libertarian culture (the emphases are mine).

“Contrast the above with a culture which does not trust the state, does not like it, does not want anything from it, does not respect it, wants to get rid of it in every possible way as quickly as possible and, having done so, wants to get rid of it some more until ultimately the dangerous, unnecessary and chaotic institution completely disappears.  The sooner we experience this sort of thinking in significant numbers, the sooner we will see an end to the obstructions of the state and a concomitant liberation of human potential.”

This is the promotion of anarchy.  It can be taken no other way.

Glenn’s page on Facebook links to the Wikipedia article on the Ontario Libertarian Party which reads in part,

“The Party is influenced by authors and thinkers like Jan Narveson and Murray Rothbard”

The political ideology of Mr. Rothbard we covered on last week’s show.  He described himself as an anarcho-capitalist. In short, an anarchist.

Jan Narveson is also described in Wikipedia as an anarcho-capitalist and contractarian.

And finally, this year’s Annual General Meeting and Liberty Seminar of the Ontario Libertarian Party had as its keynote speaker, Stefan Molyneux.  Mr Molyneux is an anarchist whose blogs, podcasts and videos can be seen on the internet.  His is the author of the book Practical Anarchy.

As I mentioned in my article and on last week’s show libertarianism is an ideology of anarchy.  While I know for a fact that there are many good people who call themselves libertarian I believe that they have been taken in by the movement which promises less government and more freedom but at its root, as I hope I have demonstrated, is anarchistic.  The leaders of the libertarian movement are no friends of liberty but are, rather, simply haters of government.

Glenn ended his comment on my article by saying that:

“I am none of the things this article states Libertarians are.”

I am glad to hear it, Glenn.  But if you are not the kind of anarchists your own party leader and party intellectuals are then the question remains; what kind of libertarian are you?

Oct 272011
 

Libertarian AnarcyIn 1986, Peter Schwartz, of The Intellectual Activist and Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the Ayn Rand Institute, wrote an analysis of Libertarianism called Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty.  In it he takes apart the philosophy of Libertarianism and lays it bare. What is left is a failed movement of the left, not unlike the Occupy Wall Street protests in its chaotic makeup and distorted messages.

Just as the Occupy Wall Street movement has attracted people from all political persuasion, but primary from the left, so too the “big tent” of Libertarian movement has attracted a diverse group of people, often from competing philosophical camps.

The term Libertarian was first coined in 1857 by anarcho-communist, Joseph Déjacque.  Its intellectual leaders in more modern times were people like the libertarian-socialist or anarcho-syndicalist, Noam Chomsky, and the anarchist, Murray Rothbard.  Rothbard actually thought of himself as an anarcho-capitalist which is of course an oxymoronic term.

The writings of Ayn Rand, Frédéric Bastiat, and Ludwig von Mises have also influenced the modern development of the Libertarian movement but it has been the method of libertarians to pick and choose what they like in the writings of these people and reject anything that may suggest any moral instruction.

Ayn Rand was not a libertarian.  She was an advocate for capitalism.  Libertarians are anti-state while Rand was pro-freedom.  Rand saw authority, properly defined and constrained, to be a necessary and proper element in any free society while libertarians consider any authority to be a necessary evil, but evil just the same.

To quote Rand:

“…I disapprove of, disagree with, and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism.  Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either.  Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement where it belongs.” (The Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Harry Binswanger, the Objectivist philosopher and associate of Ayn Rand had this to say of Libertarians:

“In the philosophical battle for a free society, the one crucial connection to be upheld is that between capitalism and reason.  The religious conservatives are seeking to tie capitalism to mysticism; the “libertarians” are tying capitalism to the whim-worshiping subjectivism and chaos of anarchy.  To cooperate with either group is to betray capitalism, reason, and one’s own future.” (The Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Libertarians have accepted many tenets of Rand’s political philosophy but have rejected her metaphysics, epistemology, but most of all her ethics.  Anyone who would suggest a system of morality to a libertarian is thought of as being authoritarian and of imposing a subjective set of standards of behaviour on them.  They would ask ‘who are you to decide what is the right or wrong way for a person to act?’  Or, ‘How can you say for certain what is moral?’  The Libertarian would laud Rand for her advocacy of capitalism, her politics, but they accept it only as a concrete; a system of economics and politics devoid of the fundament from which it arose.

This strikes to the heart of the fault with libertarianism.  A libertarian is unable to properly defend capitalism, or even liberty for that matter, except in concrete and pragmatic terms.  Their arguments defending capitalism are economic, such as having ‘sound money based on gold would prevent run-away inflation’ or pragmatic, ‘more people benefit from capitalism than from communism.’

Freedom and capitalism to a libertarian exist outside of any other philosophic context or framework.  Yet it is this framework which precedes and supports the concepts of freedom and capitalism.  If you refuse to understand the necessary philosophic pre-conditions for capitalism then you cannot properly defend it.  Capitalism becomes just another system like any other ‘ism.’  It will be thought of as just as valid as any other political or economic system and will fall – as it is doing – due to ignorance of its moral, epistemological and metaphysical roots.

Rand spent much of her life defending the philosophic foundation of capitalism.  It is an integral part of a complete philosophy which extols man as a heroic being not some hippie living in a commune where ‘anything goes’ as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.  Liberty, to Rand, was a necessary condition if man was, not only to survive, but to rise to a limitless potential.

Liberty is something to be defended vigorously but it must be done properly.  Liberty without a philosophic context will fall to anyone with a pragmatic excuse for abolishing it.  Capitalism stands on a solid ethical foundation and to reject the foundation is to reject capitalism.   Libertarians reject the foundation and therefore reject capitalism and are therefore enemies of liberty not advocates for it.

The tragic result of modern libertarian political parties today is that they attract true advocates of capitalism.  These individuals are reaching out, often in desperation, to any political movement they think will promote freedom and capitalism.  Unfortunately, these kinds of libertarians, the pro-freedom and not simply anti-state libertarians are not actually libertarians at all and their passion for freedom is being swallowed up by a collective of irrational leftists.

Consider the inhabitants of the big tent which is libertarianism:

  • The anarchists promoting a stateless society.
  • The geo-libertarians who believe that land is an asset held in common and anyone claiming any land to be private must pay a rent to the commons for the benefit of restricting entry to others.
  • The left-libertarians or the libertarian-socialists who oppose capitalism and wage labour.
  • And the right-libertarians who claim to support capitalism but only as an economic system not as an integrated political ideal in a greater philosophy.
  • There is also a small faction of angst ridden nihilists, who claim that morality doesn’t exist.  The youth of today might call them ‘emos’.

Such a large group of competing ideologies are held together by one underlying common agreement, hatred of authority.

Such a collective is no place for an advocate of freedom or capitalism.  Those that stay don’t stay for long.  They soon find that while they may share a common belief that we are over-governed that is where the commonality ends.

To these people I would suggest channeling your energy into promoting freedom, not tearing down government for the sake of it.

(Originally aired on Just Right #223, October 27, 2011.)