Viewing posts tagged austrians
Last time in ‘Summing Up’, we talked about how the right-libertarian “views the horror of socially-arranged altruism as worse than the horror of letting people die for want of medical care” because “libertarianism is against individual freedom for all because it depends upon collective liberation”. This, of course, raises another issue. Where does one draw the line? If socialised medicine is totalitarianism for doctors, why is the tacit threat of destitution which lies behind the wage labour system not considered equally bad? The answer to this question is the same brute and vulgar answer we gave already. It comes down to which side you’re on... which, most of the time, in an instance of capitalism creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of the selfish and cynical actor of its own ideological account of human nature, comes down to which class you’re in, or which class your interests are aligned with.
Let’s pause again to notice all those ‘vons’ in the names of the great Austrians. And let’s also pause to again notice that, in applying such cynicism about human nature, such distrust of democracy, such a strategic splitting of the concept of freedom, and such naked class interests, the libertarians ...
In an article entitled ‘Democracy Isn’t Freedom’, Ron Paul wrote:
Americans have been conditioned to accept the word “democracy” as a synonym for freedom, and thus to believe that democracy is unquestionably good.
The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply majoritarianism, which is inherently incompatible with real freedom. Our founding fathers clearly understood this, as evidenced not only by our republican constitutional system, but also by their writings in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere. James Madison cautioned that under a democratic government, “There is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.” John Adams argued that democracies merely grant revocable rights to citizens depending on the whims of the masses, while a republic exists to secure and protect pre-existing rights. Yet how many Americans know that the word “democracy” is found neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, our very founding documents?
Now, an important thing to note here is that Paul is absolutely right. Most of the Founding Fathers did not envisage their new republic as a democracy. Indeed, Madison (as Chomsky is fond of reminding us) explicitly saw the task of designing the new government ...
Paleolibertarianism was a consciously devised mutation of Austrian-influenced libertarianism, concocted by the late-20th century’s most prominent devotee of Austrian dogma, Murray Rothbard (and his fawning cohorts).
Libertarianism today draws on several sources. Ayn Rand is the best known, but the more influential is arguably Murray Rothbard. (Rothbard’s attitude to Rand fluctuated.) Rand is more influential for her ‘ideas’. Rand is more accessible, despite putting up a superficial show of intellectualism. Rothbard is harder to get a handle on. Unlike Rand, he is a genuine intellectual – which is often a question of how one couches ideas rather than the ideas themselves. And he develops. And he writes long, involved, serious articles (though they get less serious-minded as he gets older). I would argue that his influence is less in actual ideas and more in the surrounding spheres of aesthetics/style and tactics/strategy. After all, in fusing libertarianism with conservatism to create paleolibertarianism, the libertarians consciously submerged certain libertarian ideas. What succeeded – from the libertarian point of view - was arguably less the fusion than the style: the strategic attempt to use populist reactionary politics to further the ...
As we know, the Austrian School is - but is not limited to - a heterodox branch of bourgeois economics. It is, however, founded upon a more-or-less explicitly political project. And this project continues to animate its zombie, and its zombified victims, infected by its bite. But then the Austrians’ iteration of the new (in the 1870s) bourgeois economic doctrine of marginalism was always a political project, even in its dry theoretical basis.
Marginalism itself arose as a way to escape the increasing obviousness of the fact that capital exploits labour. This was a necessary project as capital spread across the globe. It took the conscious form of an attempt to address genuine weaknesses in the classical labour theory of value. These weaknesses were interpreted as evidence that the theory needed to be discarded precisely because the class position/alignment of the theoreticians addressing the issue pushed them towards a view of value which did not derive from labour. It became an even more necessary project after the Paris Commune scared the shit out of the bourgeoisie.
The Austrian School, in the person of Menger, helped create marginalism. But it continued to ...
A Fragmentary Digression on Individualism, Freedom, Necessity, and Utopia.
Individualism is a key part of reactionary dogma. It is relentlessly fetishized by the right, by libertarians, by conservatives, by the YouTube ‘rationals’ and ‘sceptics’, etc.
Murray Rothbard, Austrian School dogmatist and founder of right-libertarianism in America, gave “individual human beings act” as the foundation of his entire philosophical system. But, aside from the question of whether or not one can logically derive from it what Rothbard does, what does this mean? What can it possibly mean? Apart from anything else, what even is an individual? The concept, at least in the way that it is asserted by bourgeois ideology, is not supported by the evidence.
Not only is no man an island, but it appears that people are actually more like beaches.
A beach is a liminal zone. Liminality is its essence. It is defined by its lack of definition. It is sometimes long and sometimes short, depending on the time of day, and the time of year. Its very nature as a location is that it lies at the edge of the entire concept of location. It is undeniably a place, but a ...
The glue which gums Rothbard’s libertarianism, with its supposed veneration of personal liberty, to the politics of tyranny (white supremacy, anti-semitism, etc) is the baked-in project of conservatism, according to Corey Robin: the defence of privilege and hierarchy which is, or feels itself to be, threatened.
Libertarianism, via its ideological justifications for the hierarchy of employees and employers (as worked out in Hayek, for instance, in a passage we looked at), is also a general theory of capitalist hierarchy. It full-blooded libertarianism (which nonetheless takes its cues from the more polite and measured coded-savagery of Hayek) tells a story of supermen and parasites. Rand – much mocked as if she is a uniquely bizarre irruption - is just an idiosyncratically unhinged, pathological, and libidinous version of this. It’s a form of panglossianism, in that everyone gets what the deserve – or at least the best any world is capable of affording them (in general). Hierarchy thus isn’t just something apologised for – it is something rhapsodised. It isn’t just unavoidable – it’s actively good. Laudable. A mark of civilisation (in the moral sense). Libertarianism fetishises commodity relations to the point where it makes its politics from an aesthetic category error ...
‘Return of the Irrepressed’, my overview of Rothbard, will probably return next week. It occurred to me that I should get more specific in my response to Rothbard, as I have been with Hayek and Böhm-Bawerk. So I decided to critique something of his in detail. Here’s what happened. My Patreon sponsors got advance access to an earlier draft. Sorry about the length. I would have broken this up into several posts but it’s too unitary for that.
In his essay on conservative thought, Karl Mannheim argued that conservatives have never been wild about the idea of freedom. It threatens the submission of subordinate to superior. Because freedom is the lingua franca of modern politics, however, conservatives have had “a sound enough instinct not to attack” it. Instead, they have made freedom the stalking horse of inequality, and inequality the stalking horse of submission. Men are naturally unequal, they argue. Freedom requires that they be allowed to develop their unequal gifts. A free society must be an unequal society, composed of radically distinct, and hierarchically arrayed, particulars.
- Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind
One of the things that has always driven institutional racism is the notion that ...
|We all float down here, Georgie… no government to hold us down, you see…|
With thanks to @gerofalltrades for creating this post’s accompanying cursed image for me.
This article has been amended to remove an inaccurate claim that Reason magazine gave Milo's book Dangerous a flattering review. I got them mixed up with Skeptic magazine. My bad. Sorry. BTW, for interest's sake, the review in Skeptic was written by Dr. George Michael who received his degree from George Mason University.
Whereas many of today’s libertarians and ‘classical liberals’ like to present their doctrine as somehow above or beyond the left-right divide (even as they enable fascists and agree with everything they say), Rothbard indulged in little such pretence. He was cynical and opportunistic. He was inconsistent and incoherent. But he wasn’t confused. For him, libertarianism was, essentially, a reiteration of what he called ‘the Old Right’.
For more on this, see a flatulent, blithering essay he wrote in 1992 called ‘A Strategy for the Right’. You can read it at LewRockwell-dot-org. I won’t link to it (because, while the SPLC might not come right out and say it, as far as I’m concerned ...