There are many and complex reasons for believing that the long term trend of history reflects well for libertarianism. I know many of you are thinking I have jumped the shark on that idea, but I think I can lay out a decent case. Let me give you one sweeping generalization I saw someplace as a starter today: in an age of mass affluence; economic development and individualism go hand in hand.
We need to think about the long term trends and not what mad scheme the Obama administration has dreamed up this week. Libertarians seem to be unduly pessimistic these days. This post was prompted by two fellows on Twitter who are wonderful voices for freedom and liberty; but took exception to my assertion that we are, indeed, winning the battle of ideas. I think the long-run economic and social trends favor libertarianism even as the short term trends tell us that our opponent, the State, is still strong.
One example of the long term trend that I see lies not inside the United States but outside. Consider the country China. In my youth China was 100% communist and the government impoverished the country while murdering millions upon millions of innocent citizens. Now they no longer believe in communism and central planning. They are no longer communist even if the ruling party keeps the outer form of the old government. The people have seen what individuals working for themselves can do — and so has the world.
Or consider the old USSR. It is gone. It fell apart as a result of central planning. After 70 years or so of trying to build the “New Soviet Man” the people saw that the ideology of complete government control just does not work.
Consider the ever optimistic Murray Rothbard. He started out in the 50s with very few allies and very few outlets for his writings and ideas. By the 90s he was world famous and the leader of a huge wing of radical libertarian thought. The Mises Institute promotes Rothbard as well as von Mises and their analysis of government and economics. Not only that, but many scholars have arisen to take their place and extend the libertarian philosophy.
We also have The Ron Paul Movement which will continue even though Ron Paul is retired from the House. We have the Antiwar.com, Free State Project, Zero Hedge, the Mises Institute, Laissez Faire Books, Twitter, Liberty Classroom, and a host of other important voices for liberty. But much more importantly; we have the internet and millions of diverse voices teaching each other the philosophy of liberty. We are a decentralized movement that has no one leader for the statists to destroy. We are legion.
Hans Hoppe wrote:
“…the task of supporting and keeping alive the truths of private property, freedom of contract and association and disassociation, personal responsibility, and of fighting falsehoods, lies, and the evil of statism, relativism, moral corruption, and irresponsibility can nowadays only be taken on collectively by pooling resources and supporting organizations like the Mises Institute, an independent organization dedicated to the values underlying Western civilization, uncompromising and far removed even physically from the corridors of power. Its program of scholarships, teaching, publications, and conferences is nothing less than an island of moral and intellectual decency in a sea of perversion. …”
The Austrian School is enjoying its most spectacular surge in growth in my lifetime. Ron Paul awakened many to the ideas that the Austrians have been putting forth ever since its founding by Carl Menger. Now a new generation of young people are reading Austrian economics. The economics of the Austrian school tells these young folks that government is the eternal enemy of peace, prosperity, and liberty.
Rothbard once told us that before the 18th century in Western Europe there existed an identifiable Old Order called the Ancien Régime. It was feudalism marked by “tyranny, exploitation, stagnation, fixed caste, and hopelessness and starvation for the bulk of the population.” The ruling classes governed by conquest and tricking the masses into believing that it was divine will that the Kings should rule and plunder. The Old Order was the great and mighty enemy of liberty and for a score of centuries it did not appear it could ever be defeated. We know better now that the classical liberal revolution triumphed in the 18th century (in the West at least). We can win again and next time we will know not to allow even the seed of old order to remain. We must pull out the idea of the old order root and branch.
We don’t face as hard a task as the original classical liberals did in the 1700s for we now know that it can be done. We have every reason to be optimistic for the long run even as we fear the brutality and horror of the short run as the dying beast can be very dangerous in its death throes.