Authentic Liberalism

So what is “liberalism” to the average American? I bet most people would say a “liberal” is a Democratic Party voter who favors gun control, abortion, wealth redistribution, compulsory public education, government control of almost everything in life, gay rights, belief that human economic activity endangers life on the planet, and so on with a large laundry list of “causes”. Most people would also say that an American “liberal” is the opposite of an American “conservative”. “Liberals” in the U.S. also love to call themselves “progressive”.

Outside of the U.S. there is a different view of what it means to be a “liberal”.  Outside America “liberalism” is quite distinct from the modern American definition. Liberalism overseas is in the tradition of Adam Smith, John Locke, and Frédéric Bastiat. Ralph Raico once wrote a wonderful description of the classical liberal tradition which is still close to just “liberalism” is some countries but the very opposite of “liberalism” in the U.S.

Classical Liberalism, or “liberalism” outside the U.S., is the political creed of those who favor liberty over the state, practice peace rather than war, and believe that the laissez-faire market, property rights and voluntary cooperation is the foundation of a just society. They see nothing wrong with wealth accumulation as long as it was accumulated  by the peaceful and productive means of voluntary free exchange and not the political means of plunder and government privilege.

Well informed readers will recognize that Classical Liberalism is the forerunner of the modern libertarian movement. There are a few modern Americans who self-identify as “liberals” who still claim the legacy of Classical Liberalism for themselves in spite of the fact that classical liberalism is the direct opposite of the state-worshiping “liberalism” of modern America. The classical liberals believe in individual liberty, distrust government, and believe in decentralization and the self-organizing effectiveness of society. In short, my friends, the very opposite of today’s Democratic Party Liberals who favor tax and spend with total control of our lives by the central government.

I once wrote “I want the term “liberal” back!” and I still do. After all, modern American Liberalism is totally inconsistent with the traditions of classical liberalism and modern libertarianism. The modern “liberal-left” talks about humanitarianism and putting people above profits but they favor the iron fist of government domination over the voluntary cooperation of free individuals. People just don’t do what the modern liberal totalitarians think they should do!  Now these statists will usually try to obscure the fact fact they favor total government control by claiming that they do not favor state violence and besides that we all are ruled by government with our consent.  (I never gave my “consent”, did you?)

The state is God to the American liberal-progressive mindset while the libertarian (classical liberal) is not looking for a Utopia on earth but just the maximization of freedom, progress, happiness, and material well being through voluntary cooperation.

The American left-liberal joins the American conservative in being soft on the police state and the imperial war machine. Oh, each side will often decry the other’s wars but nothing changes as one side gets power and the other loses. A change in administration in D.C. often does nothing to end foreign wars but rather we often see a renewed fierceness in foreign aggressions with a change in administration. And both the “liberals” and the “conservatives” love the militarized police since the police is to the state as the edge is to the knife.

The classical liberal tradition needs to re-claim the term “liberal” if we can, but more important than terms is the fact we need to recapture the philosophy of the classical liberals. That would be a wonderful first step towards ending the present police state and world empire that is the U.S. After that, perhaps we can move on to overcoming any State rule at all.

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The Libertarian Brand

Once upon a time from the 1600s to the 1800s there were liberals that we now have to call “classical liberals” since the modern liberals are the exact opposite of the old-time liberals. The modern fraudsters claim the label liberal even though they don’t deserve it at all. They should give the label back to real liberals.

A lot of people these days have started calling themselves “libertarian” now that the term “libertarian” is gaining as much respect around the world as the term liberal held in those long ago days. Plus a lot of non-libertarians, most often conservatives, love to hurl the label “libertarian” at others as a pejorative without knowing what the label “libertarian” really means. So what is this oft misunderstood thing called libertarianism?

Jeffery Tucker once wrote:

“I’m interested in only one thing: progressive reductions of the role of all government power in people’s lives all the way to zero if possible. Whatever brings that about, in whatever sector it happens, and whether it happens slowly by steps or all in one fell swoop, I’m for it. I really don’t care who or what makes a contribution to this end or how it comes about, so long as it is ethical and it actually achieves the aim of human liberation, the mother of all progress, order, and higher civilization.”

Jeffery Tucker’s statement leaves a lot of room for people of differing opinions to work together under the banner of libertarianism. I am a radical libertarian myself and would rather see the state tossed into the trash-bin of history all at once and soon, but I know there are those who believe we must extradite ourselves from this state-caused nightmare of evil governments slowly to overcome the damage they have done. We differ on tactics but not on the goal.

Murray Rothbard thought that we could be allies with the small-government conservatives or minarchists. Yes, we can find common cause with them at times, but they are as much the enemy as the evil, government-worshiping progressives. They are statists and their philosophy leads right back to the police state given enough time no matter how small a state they start with. After all, the early U.S. republic was the ultimate minarchist dream but started a drift towards ever more power flowing to the central state almost immediately.

Rothbard warned against any drifting to the right-wing and conservatism by libertarians. He wrote in his classic “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty” an essay that challenged the fallacy that libertarianism was a conservative doctrine and warned against rightward deviations.

Libertarians of the present day are accustomed to think of socialism as the polar opposite of the libertarian creed. But this is a grave mistake, responsible for a severe ideological disorientation of libertarians in the present world. As we have seen, Conservatism was the polar opposite of liberty; and socialism, while to the “left” of conservatism, was essentially a confused, middle-of-the road movement. It was, and still is, middle-of-the road because it tries to achieve Liberal ends by the use of Conservative means. ~Murray Rothbard (1965)

Rothbard’s “conservative means” here refers to the political devices and institutions of government such as taxation, the police, prisons, federal departments, and all the rest. He pointed out that for most of human history government has been a conservative institution and always on the side of economic privilege, theocracy, patriarchy, and militarism. As Rothbard described it:

Socialism, like Liberalism and against Conservatism, accepted the industrial system and the liberal goals of freedom, reason, mobility, progress, higher living standards for the masses, and an end to theocracy and war; but it tried to achieve these ends by the use of incompatible, Conservative means: statism, central planning, communitarianism, etc. Or rather, to be more precise, there were from the beginning two different strands within Socialism: one was the Right-wing, authoritarian strand, from Saint-Simon down, which glorified statism, hierarchy, and collectivism and which was thus a projection of Conservatism trying to accept and dominate the new industrial civilization. The other was the Left-wing, relatively libertarian strand, exemplified in their different ways by Marx and Bakunin, revolutionary and far more interested in achieving the libertarian goals of liberalism and socialism: but especially the smashing of the State apparatus to achieve the “withering away of the State” and the “end of the exploitation of man by man.”

Modern American left-liberals always favor state-socialist means which libertarians see as immoral as well as destructive of society. Even so, they often have goals that line up with libertarians especially when they are defending the common man against powerful forces. But it would be a mistake to think that the modern left is any better than the modern conservatives. Libertarians have to reject both of these ideologies as they are not in favor of liberty for all men. We will reject both conservatism and modern “liberalism” (or progressivism) as not being “libertarian” or even anything close. Among those that we can realistically call libertarian there are various distinctions: we have “left-libertarians”, “right-libertarians”, minarch libertarians, radical libertarians, and on and on. One might say there is a spectrum of beliefs held by those we might be realistically called libertarian.

I believe that the key distinction among varying kinds of libertarians should be seen as one of principle and not one of aesthetics or slogans. There are libertarians who champion freedom of association, decentralizing power, maximum individual liberty, private property rights, voluntary exchange, laissez-faire markets, and peace. They champion the non-aggression principle. These are libertarians and not those so-called “libertarians” who just want to make the government work more efficiently and who compromise on property rights and free association and favor government war.

The real issue is whether a person sees the state as a moral hazard and the enemy, or just another institution to be used to achieve a political goal. The pro-state “libertarians” might have laudable goals in mind such as some nebulous concept of freedom and justice, but if you want to use the state to achieve your goals you are not a libertarian. I think the term libertarian means that one will oppose the initiation of violence, force, or fraud against the innocent by anyone, especially by the minions of the state. This is the non-aggression principle, and it is the unifying and underlining philosophical basis for libertarianism. I don’t see how one can be called a “libertarian” without his agreeing to the non-aggression principle.

Recognizing a real libertarian can be easy. If a person wants to use the government to enforce his vision of how other people should live then he is definitely not a libertarian. If a person would let people do as they please as long as they don’t aggress against any innocent person or their property then that person is libertarian. A person shows their libertarian colors when they defend other people’s right to do as they please as long as they don’t use force, fraud, or intimidation; and all others are pretenders to the name libertarian.

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Libertarians and educating children

Back in 1966 Murray Rothbard reprinted a chapter from a book on education by Herbert Spencer who was a famous and respected 19th century classical liberal social philosopher. The book by Spencer was entitled “Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical” and the chapter Rothbard re-printed was titled: “Moral Education”.

I will quote a small part of Spencer’s work, but first I would like to point out that educating the young, both morally and intellectually, is perhaps the most important task assigned to any society. For nearly two million years the homo species has been on planet earth. Modern man is said to have arisen about 200,000 years ago and ever since has had to teach the young since we don’t come into the world with a complete set of instincts as the other animals do. We must teach our children if they are to survive and prosper. We must teach our children morality if society is to survive.

While it is seen that for the purpose of gaining a livelihood, an elaborate preparation is needed, it appears to be thought that for the bringing up of children, no preparation whatever is needed. In the absence of this preparation, the management of children, and more especially the moral management, is lamentably bad. Parents either never think about the matter at all, or else their conclusions are crude, and inconsistent. In most cases, and especially on the part of mothers, the treatment adopted on every occasion is that which the impulse of the moment prompts: it springs not from any reasoned-out conviction as to what will most conduce to the child’s welfare, but merely expresses the passing parental feelings, whether good or ill; and varies from hour to hour as these feelings vary. Or if these blind dictates of passion are supplemented by any definite doctrines and methods, they are those that have been handed down from the past, or those suggested by the remembrances of childhood, or those adopted from nurses and servants — methods devised not by the enlightenment, but by the ignorance of the time. ~ Herbert Spencer

By this day and age in America we see that bad parenting has nearly destroyed the American family; especially the families of the inner city poor. But this bad parenting is a direct result of the government’s welfare state along with the atrociously bad government school system. Thomas Sowell once wrote that centuries of slavery could never break the back of the black family but that the welfare state destroyed it in just a couple of generations. This destruction of the family is certainly not limited to blacks but is destroying the family of all races. The incentives to single parenthood, sloth, and all the rest are inherent in the welfare state.

As libertarians we know that when the state started taking over the “education” of the young we were faced with indoctrination and not education. This evil is on top of the evil incentives of the welfare state. Moral education in such a cesspool of pathologies becomes next to impossible.

Let us go on to consider the true aims and methods of moral education. When a child falls or runs its head against the table, it suffers a pain, the remembrance of which tends to make it more careful for the future; and by an occasional repetition of like experiences, it is eventually disciplined into a proper guidance of its movements. If it lays hold of the fire-bars, thrusts its finger into the candle-flame, or spills boiling water on any part of its skin, the resulting burn or scald is a lesson not easily forgotten.

Now in these and like cases, Nature illustrates to us in the simplest way, the true theory and practice of moral discipline. Observe, in the first place, that in bodily injuries and their penalties we have misconduct and its consequences reduced to their simplest forms. Though according to their popular acceptations, right and wrong are words scarcely applicable to actions that have none but direct bodily effects; yet whoever considers the matter will see that such actions must be as much classifiable under these heads as any other actions. Note, in the second place, the character of the punishments by which these physical transgressions are prevented. Punishments, we call them, in the absence of a better word; for they are not punishments in the literal sense. They are not artificial and unnecessary inflictions of pain; but are simply the beneficent checks to actions that are essentially at variance with bodily welfare — checks in the absence of which life would quickly be destroyed by bodily injuries. It is the peculiarity of these penalties, if we must so call them, that they are nothing more than the unavoidable consequences of the deeds which they follow; they are nothing more than the inevitable reactions entailed by the child’s actions.

Let it be further borne in mind that these painful reactions are proportionate to the degree in which the organic laws have been transgressed. A slight accident brings a slight pain, a more serious one, a greater pain. When a child tumbles over the doorstep, it is not ordained that it shall suffer in excess of the amount necessary, with the view of making it still more cautious than the necessary suffering will make it. But from its daily experience it is left to learn the greater or less penalties of greater or less errors, and to behave accordingly. And then mark, lastly, that these natural reactions which follow the child’s wrong actions, are constant, direct, unhesitating, and not to be escaped. No threats: but a silent, rigorous performance. ~ Herbert Spencer

There was one educator that I knew who ran a private school that liked to say to children that they would reap the “logical consequences” of their actions. If a child refused to do his homework then he would most likely do poorly on the test that would come later. If the child made fun of another child then that child and others who witnessed the action would most likely not think much of the offending child. The man was teaching Karma even if he did not realize it.

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How is a child to learn the logical consequences of its actions if we deny the child (and adults) the freedom to fail? Libertarians, radical ones at least, know that the voluntary exchanges of a laissez-faire market and voluntary society can enforce a common decency as people learn from interacting with others. By the same token, we can allow our young to understand the logical outcomes of their actions by giving them the room in which to experience the world. Or as I like to put it, “little failures, big learning“. But if the welfare state and the re-education camps called “schools” try to make sure that no child suffers any consequences of its actions (or lack of action), then how is the child to learn how to act as a civilized human being? Where are the proportional and logical consequences of the child’s actions?

The latest fad in government school education is the concept that a child can not lose points on his grade if he does not do his homework, can not be graded on behavior good or bad, can not be graded on effort or lack of same, since only the “summative” assessments should count in the grade. And further, the “summative assessment” (you are not ‘cool’ if you call it a test) can be taken over and over until the child has the grade that he is satisfied with. Hence the child can be as disruptive and uncaring as he pleases and still find a way to make whatever grade he would like to have. It is the welfare state brought to the classroom.

The “summative assessments” are also being used in many places to make sure that it is the teacher herself who is blamed for all lack of learning on the part of the students. All responsibility for failure to learn has been removed from the parent and child. After all, why should be expect the child or parent to take any responsibility say these educrats.

What would Herbert Spencer say about our modern indoctrination system? One shudders to think about that. One also shudders to think of the words H.L. Mencken would be typing about now if he still lived.

As Americans see their scores on tests fall generation after generation, many still do not understand that the whole system is rotted and that sending your child off to a government indoctrination camp is perhaps the worst thing you will ever do to your loved one. But even more importantly, the morals of the child are to be put in grave danger if you believe that parents should not teach morality but the public schools should do that job. The schools do not allow for the sort of moral learning via “logical consequences” that Spencer was teaching us about.

A great advantage of letting children experience the logical consequences of their actions is that this is a natural system of discipline. It is a system of Karma or pure justice and will be recognized by every child as such. A child who suffers from his own misbehavior is apt to appreciate that he is the cause of the misfortune, but if artificial punishment is used then he is more apt to blame others for the consequences. Spencer used the example of a boy coming in the house after playing and getting mud all over the place. It is far better to make the boy clean up after himself — restitution — rather than some punishment like being sent to bed or a spanking.

Let the child suffer the logical consequences of his actions. As libertarians we understand that restitution is far and away the best way to deal with crimes great and small. The history of the anarchy in Ireland and its Brehon legal code was dependent on restitution rather than a prison system like modern America. Most radical libertarian theorists (like Rothbard for example) have always envisioned a real justice system where the individual was made to provide restitution to his victim if he was found guilty of aggression against another or another’s property. Raise your children by this doctrine and keep your kids out of the government indoctrination camps if at all possible.

Our rights and our property

Some of my friends got off onto a property rights argument yet again in a back and forth on Twitter. The exchange reminded me that when you get to the heart of most arguments you will find a misunderstanding of property rights, a misunderstanding of basic economics, or both. And so, I decided to write a brief look at my take on property rights and then a look at a friend’s distinction between “private property” and “personal property”.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ~Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of independence

In America among the so-called “Liberals” of the modern era we find those who are constantly finding “human rights” to justify whatever their latest goals and schemes happen to be at the time and yet they attack the individual’s property rights every chance they get. These “human” rights of the so-called American Left are all warm and fuzzy and are without the clarity needed to be principles. The liberals are ready to toss a “human right” under the bus when it is pragmatic to do so. They don’t seem to have any bed rock principles to guide them other than they think they know what is best for the rest of us.

I have long been convinced that all “human rights” are property rights. When the argument drifts away from property rights then the “rights” become vague and they vacillate with changing fads and circumstances. Without the principle of the individual’s property rights, often it becomes just a government dictate as to what “rights” one has and that situation is not rights at all but government granted privilege.

Murray Rothbard wrote:

Take, for example, the “human right” of free speech. Freedom of speech is supposed to mean the right of everyone to say whatever he likes. But the neglected question is: Where? Where does a man have this right? He certainly does not have it on property on which he is trespassing. In short, he has this right only either on his own property or on the property of someone who has agreed, as a gift or in a rental contract, to allow him on the premises. In fact, then, there is no such thing as a separate “right to free speech”; there is only a man’s property right: the right to do as he wills with his own or to make voluntary agreements with other property owners.  ~ Power and Market, 2nd ed. (Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1977), pp. 238-39.

Free speech is in the news again as well as the right of a “free press”,  and there have even been calls to have Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian Newspaper, and other journalists prosecuted for publishing materials supplied by the whistle blower Edward Snowden. I intend to write about the Snowden episode another day but that news led me to think of “freedom of the press” and of “free speech” in conjunction with private property today.

It has been said that “the right to freedom of speech” is just the right to hire a venue (or start a blog) to express your views on various matters. I can say anything I want to while I am in my house (if the wife lets me of course!) and I can write what I want to here (freedom of the press) at this blog as long as I don’t violate the agreement with wordpress or verbally aggress against someone in my writings.  Free speech and free press rights are almost the same thing, especially in these modern high tech times. Both are just subsets of private property rights. I can enter into agreements with others to express my views in a variety of ways — but I have to respect the property rights of others at the same time.

Sometimes people get all hung up on common words. Most people define “private property” simply as property held by non-governmental legal entities. Or in other words, the property that the State does not claim is said to be “private” property. And “personal property” has historically just meant private property that is movable as opposed to land that you can not move. As Rothbard did, I take “property rights” to mean those rights in our private property to include all property owned by the individual no matter if he can move the property about or not. Why make such a distinction? After all, what usually divides people on “property rights” is land.

Land is often the sticking point with many people because the easiest way to control a man is to control the land beneath his feet. If you keep the masses from owning land, then you have gained control of the masses to a great degree. That is one of the reasons that the criminal State would often make huge land grants to its favored co-conspirators. In a libertarian world, there would be a lot of “owners” of large tracks of land that would not be able to defend their deed to that land, but that is for the common law courts to decide after society sheds the evil of the state — and a topic for another day.

“To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association–‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.'”  ~Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy’s “Political Economy,” 1816.

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I did not give any Political Consent to the DC Criminals

Every so often some modern “liberal” claims that I have given my consent to be ruled by the criminal gang writ large called the US Government. I tell you friends, I have most certainly not given my consent to be ruled by those thugs on the Potomac. “But you agreed to the social contract” they yell. No. No I did not. I never signed any “Social Contract“. Hell, I have not even seen such a contract to sign! Such talk of a “social contract” is utter nonsense and propaganda.

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These propagandists have to be talking about implied consent  to this “social contract” since we know that the Constitution which is our basic contract in the US was signed by just a few men (no women) and every one of those people are long dead. It is now over two centuries later and even the grandchildren of these men are all dead.

Did I give any implied consent when I voted a few times? No. I never got to vote on the legitimacy of the regime. And besides that, if you refuse to vote the regime does not then allow you to opt out and pay no taxes or ignore the government’s laws and rules. Try not voting and then smoking dope on a downtown street if you don’t see my point. There is no way to give “consent” if there is no avenue by which one may withdraw his consent or to never give it in the first place.

There are some folks who claim that I agreed to the social contract and the constitution simply because I was born inside the geographical boundaries claimed by the criminal gang in DC. In my youth this sort of argument was seen in the “America, love it or leave it” bumper stickers. This sort of hogwash claims that the government owns me because I was born! No way my friends, no way.

Then there are those who claim because I have generally obeyed the laws and not started a revolution that I am agreeing to the social contract. Nonsense on stilts! The regime puts a gun to my head and I obey to keep from getting shot and you call this agreeing to a contract? No contract law class in the world would call that arrangement an honest and fair contract. There are many laws passed by the criminal legislatures of this land that I obey because the police state would aggress against me if I did not; but that by no means says that I see these laws as legitimate. Hell, even tyrannical, oppressive regimes have the passive acceptance of their people given that they are not in open, armed revolt.

The most common claim that I have agreed to a social contract comes from the modern “liberals” who will say that if I use the government roads or the state’s legal system then I have agreed to be ruled by the criminal gang. But there can be no consent on my part as I have no way to opt out of this arrangement. The state steals more than half the paycheck of the common American and then spends it as the state pleases. If we use the roads we are force to pay for, this is not a voluntary, consensual arrangement. This is being raped and told to like it.

I have heard the modern “liberals” claim that you are a horrible person if you shop at Walmart. These same people support the government’s road system that allows Walmart to compete against the local businesses in every town in America and they support taxing the working man to the point he has to shop there where he can get the most for his money. And yet it is supposed to be the working man’s fault that Walmart is successful. Typical. The problem with most “liberals” is they voice loud and vociferous opinions on things they refuse to study.

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” ~Murray Rothbard

No living person ever gave consent to the current regime in any meaningful way since there is no way to not obey. There in no meaningful choice in the matter. The government is violating our natural rights in an open and blatant manner and none of us is safe from it as long as it is allowed to exist. You have no moral obligation to support the state and I would argue that you have a moral obligation to oppose the state at every turn. Withdrawing your moral support for the regime is critical since public support is the basis of every regime’s power over the ruled. To just resignedly cooperate is to support the bastards. To be fair, it is not just the modern “liberals” or “progressives” who make this claim of “social contract” as the basis for supporting the state. Conservatives do likewise.

The reason that government schools are so crucial to the maintenance of the regime’s power is so that the state can propagandize the citizen from childhood up through young adulthood. The “public school system” is the regime’s most elaborate and effective propaganda operation but it is not the only one. It is one of many.

After all the years of government propaganda called “school” and then living in a society where the mainstream media is a propaganda arm of the regime, it is a wonder we can think at all. (h/t Paul Simon) The candidacy of Ron Paul did a lot to help millions of Americans wake from their slumbers and realize they have been lied to by the state. Our job is to keep that information flowing and help the citizens understand why they need to withdraw their consent to be governed  by this outlaw regime.